Through an interpreter, Fredy Armando Guerra apologized to the police officer he attacked during a party in a Dale City home on Halloween, 2004. During the altercation, the officer fired a shot at Guerra’s brother-in-law, killing him.
“I apologize for the offenses committed against you,” Guerra said in Spanish at the urging of Circuit Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr.
Guerra and two other men who attacked police officers at the party pleaded guilty to assault. Alston suggested each face and apologize to Prince William County police officer Andrew B. Cornell, who was in the courtroom Monday.
Guerra, 41, of Hyattsville, Md., pleaded guilty to felony assault and battery of a police officer and misdemeanor assault and battery of a police officer. As part of a plea agreement, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard A. Conway reduced one charge from a felony to a misdemeanor and dropped additional charges including drunk in public, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct.
Carlos Ernesto Marquez, 36, of 13315 Orangewood Drive, Dale City, pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery of an officer. As part of a plea agreement, the original felony charges of assault and battery were reduced to misdemeanors. Alston sentenced Marquez to serve 180 days in jail on each of the two charges.
Jorge Umberto Marquez-Hernandez, 38, of Silver Spring, Md., pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery. As part of a plea agreement, the charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and a drunk in public charge was dropped. Alston sentenced Marquez-Hernandez to serve 180 days in jail.
Conway said that shortly before midnight Oct. 30, someone called police with a noise complaint regarding a loud party at Marquez’s house. Officers Cornell and Richmond O. Appau went to Marquez’s house and knocked on the front door, trying to find someone in charge.
“The front porch was already littered with Heineken beer bottles,” Conway said. “Four to six individuals rushed out and began shoving Officer Cornell into a corner of the porch.”
The men were throwing punches at Cornell’s face and head, Conway said. Cornell drew his baton, but was unable to fend off the attackers, Conway said. One of the men was scratching at Cornell’s eyes, and Cornell could feel hands around his throat and fingers reaching for his gun, Conway said. There was a small picket fence around the porch, and Cornell tried to kick his way through the fence to escape. It was impossible, Conway said.
“He shifted his baton to his left [hand] and fired one round from his service ? weapon into Jose Leonides-Marquez,” Conway said. “He retreated as far as he could before he shot.”
Leonides-Marquez, 31, of Silver Spring, Md., died from the gunshot he sustained in the upper right chest. The bullet injured his heart, lungs and stomach before exiting his back, according to the medical examiner’s report. Leonides-Marquez’s blood alcohol content was 0.22.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert ruled the shooting was justified about a month after Leonides-Marquez’s death.
“It’s a very tragic situation. The officers were simply responding to a scene. People were acting like a mob, and someone is killed,” Judge Alston told Hernandez-Marquez. “This police officer has to bear this on his conscience the rest of his life, when he did what he had to do to protect his own life.”
Once the shot rang out, Cornell was able to get through the remaining individuals to join Appau, Conway said. When Cornell made it to the cruisers, the crowd began throwing landscaping bricks at them, Conway said.
Appau had used pepper spray and his baton to fend off individuals attacking him in the front yard, Ebert said in November 2004. He radioed an officer-in-distress call that Prince William and Dumfries police officers and Virginia State Police troopers responded to.
Cornell received contusions and abrasions to his face. He suffered a slight concussion, and was treated at Potomac Hospital. His uniform shirt was nearly ripped off during the altercation, Conway said.
About three dozen of Leonides-Marquez’s family and friends gathered at his brother Marquez’s house Oct. 30. The family was celebrating their success in America by making a video to send back to family in El Salvador, Conway said.
Cornell resigned from the county police March 25 over what he called “a difference of opinion” regarding the incident. He described the scene as a rough one.
“It was a noise call. We weren’t looking to fight anyone,” Cornell said. “It’s a shame somebody had to die on that type of call.”
Because Guerra pleaded guilty to a felony charge, he will have a separate sentencing hearing. Conway recommended that Guerra be sentenced to five years in prison on the felony assault and battery of an officer, with four years and six months suspended. Conway recommended Guerra be sentenced to 12 months in jail with 11 months suspended on the misdemeanor charge. The total recommended sentence would give Guerra seven months of jail time to serve, if the sentencing judge accepts the recommendation. Guerra is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 15.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 369-6594.