NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Police Officer Katie Thyne is remembered as the officer who always had a smile on her face. The 24-year-old former U.S. Navy sailor was killed in the line of duty in January when she and another officer pulled over a driver and passenger on suspicion of marijuana use near the Monitor Merrimac Overlook Park.
Rather than complying with the officers’ orders, the driver allegedly hit the accelerator, dragged Thyne for a block, and then crashed into a tree. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
The name of the criminal case — United States of America v. Vernon Evander Green II — summarizes the magnitude of the loss to the City of Newport News, the police department, and the Thyne family
In a video teleconference plea hearing from the chambers of federal Judge Lawrence Leonard Friday, Green, 39, was calm and polite when a court clerk initiated the hearing.
“Mr. Green, can you hear us?”
“Yes,” Green responded.
“How are you doing?” said the clerk.
“Ok — great thank you,” Green said.
Green, who has a criminal history involving drug charges, was charged with possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and possession of marijuana. Leonard questioned Green to make sure he understood there’s no parole in federal court and the guilty plea is final.
“Do you also understand that if the court accepts your plea you will not be able to withdraw your plea just because you changed your mind?” said Leonard. Green responded by saying yes.
No evidence was presented by prosecutors, who speak for the dead in criminal cases, and no evidence was presented by the defense attorney who represents Green.
But Green has previously spoken for himself, just one month after Thyne’s death when he essentially confessed.
In a Feb. 22 statement to the Daily Press he said: “I am deeply regretful, sympathetic and remorseful for my involvement resulting in such a horrible situation… So many lives have been changed because of this, and the hurt is at a magnitude that I couldn’t fathom it happened.”
According to a Department of Justice news release, Green’s case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. The one-year-old program draws upon the department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence and enhance coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes.
On the gun charge, Green faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But because of a 2003 cocaine possession with intent to distribute conviction, he faces up to two additional years behind bars and another fine of up to $100,000 dollars.
Green now must face prosecution by the Commonwealth of Virginia for charges of felony murder, failure to stop at an accident, eluding, and disregard of a police death.
A preliminary hearing on those charges is set for Dec. 2, 2020, in Newport News General District Court.
Ivey Runnels, the Hampton woman who was traveling with Green the night officer Thyne was killed, is due in court Nov. 10 on a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
Thyne is survived by her partner and a daughter who was only 2 years old when her mother died.