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Posted November 1, 1999 | comments Leave a comment

Bell charged in officer’s death

Suspect faces capital murder in shooting

By Charlotte J. Eller -- Daily Staff Writer

A 35-year-old Jamaican native was charged Sunday with capital murder in the death of a Winchester police sergeant who was gunned down late Friday night while chasing a man in the walkway between two houses on East Piccadilly Street, police said.

Edward Nathaniel Bell is charged with the murder of Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, 32, who authorities say is the first city officer to be shot in the line of duty in at leasty 50 years.

Timbrook’s body, shot once in the head, was found between 301 and 303 E. Piccadilly St. at 11:53 p.m. Friday. Timbrook, whose wife is expecting their first child in December, was pronounced dead at Winchester Medical Center on Saturday about 12:25 a.m.

After an evacuation of the area and an intense house-to-house search, Bell was found hiding in the basement of the house at 305 E. Piccadilly St. on Saturday about 8 a.m., police said. Bell, whose address is 384 National Ave., was charged with murder after a gun was found beneath bricks and debris under the rear porch at the Piccadilly Street house Sunday about 2 p.m.

Authorities say Bell, who had a prior police record in the city, also has been charged with use of a firearm in the commission of murder and breaking into the house at 305 E. Piccadilly St. The shooting of an on-duty police officer is a capital offense that carries the death penalty.

Bell, who is being held without bond in the regional jail, is scheduled to appear in General District Court this morning so an attorney can be appointed to represent him, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul H. Thomson said.

The shooting was preceded by a chase that began when a black man took off running at 11:49 p.m. when Timbrook and two probation and parole officers were questioning another man they thought might be on parole near the intersection of Woodstock Lane and Lincoln Street.

An eight-year city police veteran, Timbrook was in charge of the city’s year-old Special Enforcement Team and was participated at the time of the shooting in a special program, one of two in the state, in which probation and parole officers ride with police to identify probationers who are out at night in violation of probation and who may be involved in criminal activity, according to police chief Gary. W. Reynolds.

Probation and parole officers Brad Triplett and William Whithed were riding with Timbrook on Friday night, investigator David P. Sobonya said.

During the questioning of the man approached on Woodstock lane, the black man began to run, which precipitated the pursuit. Timbrook and the probation and parole officers were looking for a person for whose arrest they had a warrant for a probation violation, although police didn’t identify the person named in the warrant. The man who ran “fit the description of the person they were searching for,” Reynolds said.

He was chased by Timbrook and Triplett, who ran along parallel tracks in the alley between E. Piccadilly Street and E. Woodstock Lane until they were briefly separated, Sobonya said. Triplett heard the shots and discovered Timbrook lying between the two houses beneath an outside staircase that runs to an upper-story apartment at 301 E. Piccadilly St.

Timbrook radioed dispatchers of this chase at 11:49 p.m. Reynolds said dispatchers received a call of shots being fired at 11:51 p.m.

City and state police Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT teams spent more than five hours Saturday in a house-to-house search of residences on the south side of East Piccadilly Street before they found Bell shortly after 8 a.m. on their second round of searches, police said.

The house and others on the south side of Piccadilly Street had been evacuated in preparation for the search. The entire area was cordoned off within five minutes, police said. Eleven residents spent the night at the Friendship Fire Hall, at a shelter staffed by the American Red Cross, Deputy Fire and Rescue Chief Frank Wright said.

A helicopter from Fairfax County was used in the search, circling over the area for hours, using its infrared light that detects body heat and its floodlights to illuminate the entire area, including nearby cemeteries that also were searched, police said.

About 50 police officers took part in 20 hours of searching Saturday and about 30 turned about Sunday, many of them volunteering after work or on their days off, Sobonya said. The officers, as well as a gun-sniffing dog, came from the Virginia State Police, FBI and law enforcement agencies in Frederick, Shenandoah and Fairfax counties and other areas.

Using metal detectors and other devices, police teams made repeated sweeps of the properties at 301, 303 and 305 E. Piccadilly St. and a large vacant lot behind it, Sobonya said.

The handgun was found covered by bricks and debris underneath the rear porch at 305 E. Piccadilly St. “after we searched that yard for the 20 millionth time,” Sobonya said. The last time, officers “got down on their hands and knees” and crawled over the yard, he said.

Police said Sunday that they cannot say that the gun that was found was the one used to kill Timbrook. Sobonya said tests will be performed on the gun, which will be taken this morning to the state forensics lab in Fairfax.

For Ron and Angela Barrow, who live in a two-story apartment at 303 E. Piccadilly St., the event was especially harrowing. As they waited outside the Economy Market for a ride to her brother’s home, after being evacuated from their own home, Barrow told of hearing the shot, “a big bang right underneath the steps” of the apartment building next to theirs.

“I knew it was a shot. I can tell you that,” said Barrow, who lives in a second-floor apartment. “And it wasn’t no little gun. You can believe that. It shook the whole house. It sounded like a cannon.”

Barrow made his wife stay inside while he went downstairs.

“I looked around back and I seen the officer down. He was bleeding in the chest,” he said. An officer came over to him “and stuck a gun in my face and told me to get back inside the house,” he said.

An autopsy will be performed on Timbrook’s body, authorities said.

Reynolds said Timbrook was “an exemplary officer” who joined the city force in 1991. He was promoted to sergeant in July 1998, when he was placed in charge of the Special Enforcement Team.

He also had been a Drug Abuse Resistance Education teacher in city schools, a field training officer and a member of the SWAT team, Reynolds said. He had received numerous awards and recognitions for his work, he said. He and his wife, Kelly Lee Wisecarver Timbrook, were expecting their first child in December, Reynolds said.

Funeral arrangements, which are being handled by the family, were incomplete Sunday, officials said.

Maj. Fred E. Hildebrand, a city officer for 43 1/2 years, said this was the first time that a city officer had been shot while on duty in at least 50 years.


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