A Frederick County family is suing Maryland State Police after a Libertytown woman died in her home after a 2010 confrontation with a state trooper.
Police were called to the home of Veronica Harding-Perkins at about 12:45 a.m. June 17, 2010, after her husband, Dean Perkins, called 911 to report that she had been drinking and throwing furniture onto the sidewalk from their home in the 12100 block of Liberty Road, police said.
When then-Cpl. Eric Corbin arrived, he entered a business attached to the house and saw a gun in Harding- Perkins’ hand, police said.
He fired his weapon and retreated, and a police barricade was set up around the house. More than five hours later, at 5:45 a.m., a state police tactical assault team entered the house and found Harding-Perkins dead.
Corbin, who has since been promoted to sergeant, has worked for the state police since July 2002.
Dean Perkins and the estate of Harding-Perkins filed a lawsuit in Frederick County Circuit Court against Maryland State Police and Corbin. They are seeking a multimillion-dollar settlement in the death.
They said troopers failed to follow proper procedure that night and violated the rights of Harding-Perkins and her husband under the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The suit also alleges wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, false arrest and false imprisonment.
Assistant Attorney General Phillip Pickus filed a motion Tuesday morning to have the suit dismissed.
Pickus said Corbin was responding to a 911 call and was informed that Harding-Perkins was intoxicated and had access to a gun. When he spotted her through a doorway, she was holding a gun with both hands and pointing it at another door. When Corbin yelled to her, she turned with the gun still aimed and ready to fire, Pickus said.
“He had no choice but to fire his service weapon,” Pickus said. “He literally had a split second to decide. Sgt. Corbin believed he was about to be shot.”
Cary J. Hansel, attorney for the family, disagreed with that characterization of events.
“At the time of the shooting, he’d never announced himself as an officer” and never ordered her to drop the gun, Hansel said.
He said Corbin was recorded yelling the word “Ma’am,” and then, moments later, “She’s got a gun.”
When Corbin yelled, Harding-Perkins turned her head and body slightly, but the gun was never directly pointed at the trooper, he said.
Hansel also argued that police wrongfully left Harding-Perkins in the house to die, instead of administering first aid.
He said officers at the scene heard Harding-Perkins pleading for help and crying in pain after the shooting. The cries faded to whimpers and ultimately silence, he said.
If officers had gone inside immediately after the shooting, Harding-Perkins’ life could have been saved, Hansel said.
“She didn’t have to die there alone with her husband outside,” he said.
Pickus said the delay in entering the house did not lead to Harding-Perkins’ death and did not amount to police negligence.
“There was no medical intervention that could have saved her,” he said.
Judge Theresa M. Adams denied the motion for summary judgment.
A jury of three men and three women was chosen Tuesday afternoon. Opening arguments are set to begin today at 9 a.m.
The trial is scheduled to last through next week.