The Fairfax County police officer shot five times last week during an attack outside a police station in Chantilly died of his injuries early yesterday morning.
Master Police Officer Michael E. Garbarino, 53, died at 2:45 a.m. He was surrounded by his family and friends at Inova Fairfax Hospital, police said. He had been hospitalized in critical condition since the May 8 ambush.
“He was a dedicated police officer, a loving husband, a devoted father, the son of proud parents and a brother,” Fairfax County Police Chief David M. Rohrer said. “We will go forward with him as a role model for us.”
Officer Garbarino, a 23-year member of the Fairfax police force, was the first victim shot by Michael Kennedy, 18, in the ambush on the Sully District Station at about 3:50 p.m.
Fairfax County Police Detective Vicky O. Armel, 43, and Kennedy, of Centreville, also were killed in the shootout.
Meanwhile, officials with the Fairfax police union told The Washington Times yesterday that the security gate at the Sully station was broken at the time of the shooting and that it had not been repaired for several months.
Union officials told The Times that the station had made several requests to county officials to repair the gate before the shooting, but that the mechanical problem was not fixed until after the incident, when an attorney for the union, sent a letter to Fairfax County Attorney David P. Bobzien the day after the attack, requesting the repairs.
“It enrages the rank and file officers even further, because it was such an easy fix,” said Officer Marshall E. Thielen, president of the Fairfax Coalition of Police, Local 5000. “I don’t think security was taken seriously until we lost these two officers.”
Officer Thielen said the barrier — a sliding gate that moves on rollers at the rear of the Sully District Station — had been broken for three months because of a mechanical breakdown and was wide open when Kennedy drove onto the lot in a stolen van, got out and opened fire. He was carrying an AK-47-style assault weapon, a high-powered rifle and five handguns.
Members of the union, which represents more than 800 county police employees, said that security gates at the Reston and Mason district stations also were broken May 8.
Responsibility for the gates’ maintenance falls to the county, which often contracts with private vendors for facility repairs.
County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald could not confirm or deny yesterday if the Sully station had made requests to repair the gate prior to the shooting, or if a private vendor was responsible for the repairs.
Miss Fitzgerald said the gate at Sully only was manually operational May 8 and was completely replaced May 12. “County staff has worked with vendors to address problems with the front gate at the Sully police station,” she said.
County officials have since put in place a preventive maintenance program for gates at all police departments to make sure they are “working efficiently and effectively,” Miss Fitzgerald said.
Officer Thielen said the union is considering legal action.
Police said Officer Garbarino was preparing to go off-duty and was not wearing his uniform or a bulletproof vest at the time of the shooting. He was in an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria when Kennedy shot him five times.
The death stunned many in the police department, which had only publicly identified Officer Garbarino on Tuesday to announce the establishment of a family trust fund. Officer Garbarino’s condition was listed as critical but police had said that he was “showing signs of improvement.”
Dr. Kevin Dwyer, co-chief of trauma services at Inova Fairfax Hospital, said that Officer Garbarino had shown signs of movement and flickered his eyes but that his condition worsened Tuesday.
“Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, things took a turn for the worse,” Dr. Dwyer said. “Rather suddenly, all his systems began to fail.”
Dr. Dwyer said Officer Garbarino was admitted in “extreme shock,” adding that 95 percent of patients would not survive the first 48 hours.
Yesterday afternoon, more than half a dozen Fairfax County police officers parked their motorcycles at the entrance to the cul de sac where the Garbarino family home is located in Centreville and stopped vehicles as they approached. Several more officers could be seen outside the family’s house. Police ordered a reporter from The Times to leave the street.
Outside the Sully police station, authorities turned a police cruiser into a makeshift memorial for Officer Garbarino. Police closed the right lane of Stonecroft Boulevard in front of the station so that mourners could stop their cars and leave condolences. The cruiser quickly became covered with flowers.
Friends and colleagues of Officer Garbarino, who helped found the police union and was an active member since 1990, said he was a devout Catholic, the “heart and soul” of his squad and an officer sought out by his superiors for advice.
“He was top-notch, smart, quick on his feet … he never demeaned anybody,” said Master Police Officer Ron Dean, who worked with Officer Garbarino for eight years at the McLean District Station. “That’s not to say he wasn’t tough. If it needed to be dished out, he would dish it out. [But] if someone needed a hand, it was there.”
Sen. Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican, got to know Officer Garbarino when they went door to door campaigning and when the officer talked the state senator into going on a police ride-along with him last summer.
“He had a very proactive approach,” Mr. Cuccinelli said yesterday. “Before waiting for something to rise to the level of criminal activity he’d go knock on the door and speak to the mother of the person of concern.”
Mr. Cuccinelli said that Officer Garbarino was married and had two daughters, ages 10 and 13, and that he was eligible for retirement at 25 years of service.
Contributions can be made to the Garbarino Family Trust Fund, c/o Fairfax County Federal Credit Union, 4201 Members Way, Fairfax, Va. 22030.
Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.