Bashir pleads insanity

Bashir pleads insanity

By Erich Wagner [File Photo]

The man who shot Alexandria Police Officer Peter Laboy during a traffic stop last year in Old Town claims he was insane at the time.

The trial of former Alexandria Yellow Cab driver Kashif Bashir began Monday in circuit court. Although much of the first two days of testimony were geared toward establishing the facts of the incident, the fact that Bashir shot Laboy in the head is not in dispute.

Bashir, 29, is charged with capital attempted murder, malicious wounding and two counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. As the trial opened, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If found guilty, he faces up to life in prison.

Bashir shot Laboy in the head during a routine traffic stop at the corner of South St. Asaph and Wilkes streets on February 27, 2013. He then was chased by police through Old Town and eventually into Fairfax County, where he crashed his cab and was arrested.

Kashif Bashir [Courtesy Photo]
The case has been in and out of limbo ever since. Bashir twice was declared incompetent to stand trial — his defense attorneys reported he claimed people were communicating with him telepathically — and was remanded to a state mental hospital.

Bashir is now forcibly medicated with antipsychotic drugs. Public defenders Emily Beckman and Stephanie Snyder requested, unsuccessfully, the regimen halt for the trial, arguing that the medication would “undermine the fairness of his trial,” because of the insanity plea.

Perhaps as a result, Bashir waived his right to a jury trial last week, instead opting for a bench trial before Circuit Court Judge James Clark.

As defense attorneys prepared to argue that Bashir suffered a psychotic break, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Porter interviewed witnesses who encountered Bashir the day before the shooting, from passengers in his cab to employees of a Lorton gun store where he purchased the weapon used in the attack: a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun.

“He had a normal demeanor, curious,” said Eman Bawab, general manager at Sharpshooters. “[He] said he needed it for work.”

Fellow gun store employee Ed Scutt said that while the background check processed, Bashir seemed “very calm, and a bit conversational.”

But the “crux” of the case, as Clark called it, will lie with the testimony of psychiatric experts. Porter planned to call forensic examiner witnesses after the Times’ deadline Wednesday and would then rest his case.

The defense team likewise did not begin mounting its case by press time, but indicated attorneys would present evidence of Bashir’s waning mental health, from text messages with friends to emails sent to major media outlets. They did not say whether Bashir plans to testify on his own behalf.

Laboy and his wife, Suzanne Laboy, declined to comment after testimony ended Tuesday. Although the officer has recovered a great deal since the incident — recently returning to limited duty with the police department — he still is engaged in a long recovery process, Suzanne has said, both in media reports and on her personal blog about the ordeal.