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Conviction of teen who shot Virginia police officer being challenged

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Scott Daugherty
The Virginian-Pilot

PORTSMOUTH – A court-commissioned psychologist believes a 16-year-old boy found guilty of trying to kill a Portsmouth police officer is now incompetent to stand trial in an unrelated robbery case, according to attorneys in the case.

The decision could have far-reaching implications on Will Patterson Jr.’s conviction for shooting Officer Angelina Baaklini.

This morning, Circuit Judge William Moore Jr. postponed Patterson’s sentencing hearing, which was scheduled to happen Tuesday.

The defense also plans to ask the court to set aside the jury’s verdict in the case, arguing that if he is incompetent to stand trial now, he was probably incompetent in April.

If that doesn’t work, Patterson could file a motion after he is sentenced arguing he had ineffective counsel – because they didn’t question his mental state before his trial – and that the jury’s verdict should be tossed.

“This is sort of an unusual set of circumstances,” said District Public Defender Brenda Spry, one of Patterson’s attorneys.

Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Shaniqua Clark Nelson declined to comment. Previously, however, another prosecutor argued Patterson was faking mental health problems in order to delay trial in two robbery cases that remain pending.

Prosecutor Carmen Cabrero noted recordings of phone calls Patterson made from the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. She recounted one call where Patterson said he planned to tell his probation officer he was seeing and hearing things.

In light of the jail recordings, the president of the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police decried the incompetency finding as “another ploy on (Patterson’s) part to get away with what he did.”

“If the judge sets the verdict aside, that’s just a slap in the face of every police officer,” Sgt. Matt Crutcher said this morning. “That would just show that our lives are worth nothing.”

He said the court would be victimizing Baaklini again if she was forced to go through a second trial.

Dr. Weare Zwemer of Chesapeake has not completed his report, attorneys said. But he has verbally told them of his findings and plans to file a written report Tuesday.

Moore scheduled another hearing Tuesday morning in place of the sentencing, since Patterson was not present this morning in court.

While awaiting sentencing, Patterson will remain in state custody.

A jury convicted Patterson April 13 of trying to kill Baaklini on Nov. 6 in the 2500 block of Hickory St.

Baaklini testified she recognized Patterson, who was 15 at the time, as a runaway. She said she was trying to place him in handcuffs and take him home when he opened fire.

Video, DNA and eyewitness testimony tied him to the shooting, among other things.

Patterson’s fate is in Moore’s hands. He could send him to a juvenile detention facility, where he could be held until he is 21, or to an adult prison, where he could spend the rest of his life.

After the shooting, police charged Patterson in two robberies targeting users of the OfferUp online marketplace. One occurred Oct. 15 in the 1600 block of Maple Ave. and netted $150. The other occurred Oct. 29 near the intersection of Duke Street and Prentis Avenue and netted $250.

In both cases, the victims went to the scene of the robbery to sell cellphones, only to be robbed by two people.

Both trials were placed on hold earlier this year pending the results of the competency evaluation.

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