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Maryland man indicted on aggravated murder charges in Wintergreen officer's killing

A Nelson County grand jury has indicted the Maryland man accused of killing a Wintergreen police officer during a “psychotic break” in June of 2023.

Daniel Adam Barmak, a 23-year-old resident of Owings Mill, Maryland, was indicted Tuesday on charges of aggravated murder, using a firearm in commission of a felony and malicious wounding. Barmak is accused of shooting and killing 31-year-old police officer Chris Wagner on the night of June 16 after Wagner was the first officer to respond to a reported disturbance on Arrowwood Lane in the Nelson County resort community of Wintergreen.

According to Virginia State Police reports, friends Barmak was staying with in Wintergreen phoned the police after he began exhibiting violent and dangerous behavior toward himself and others. When Wagner arrived, police said, he encountered Barmak in the woods outside the Arrowwood residence and a struggle ensued. As the pair fought over Wagner’s handgun, Barmak shot and killed the officer, according to the state police. Barmak also was shot in the leg during the incident.

Doug Ramseur, Barmak’s attorney, said at a Jan. 17 preliminary hearing the defendant has no previous criminal record and appeared to have a “psychotic break” over the course of a few hours the night of the shooting.

Travis Lewis, a special agent with the state police, testified Wagner’s body was an estimated 60 to 70 feet from the two-story residence on Arrowwood Lane, and that a knife with a red stain on the blade was also discovered inside the house.

Wintergreen police officer Timothy Smith testified he heard Wagner’s call from the scene “getting urgent,” and when he arrived at the residence he said saw its front door left ajar. Smith told the court he encountered a completely nude Barmak covered in mud and blood; Barmak charged at him and had to be restrained with the help of two other law enforcement officers.

Smith testified he found Wagner lying on the ground with his arm by his head in a defensive position. Emergency responders tended to Wagner, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and Smith said he went back to assist officers restraining Barmak, who was “hitting, kicking, biting, spitting — anything to get us off him.” At one point, Smith said, Barmak chewed at the gravel on the ground beneath him.

Smith testified he believed Barmak was high on drugs or alcohol and his speech was “mostly incoherent.” Barmak also repeatedly banged his head on the ground and attempted to bite through his handcuffs, Smith said.

Ryan Warshaw and William Spiller, the friends who were staying with Barmak that weekend on a golfing trip, testified extensively during the Jan. 17 hearing of Barmak’s strange behavior during an earlier hike. Later that same day, while all three were on the porch, Barmak tried to throw himself over the railing before attacking the two, according to their testimony.

Barmak stabbed Warshaw in the back while he tried to get away and when asked what he wanted said, “You dead,” according to Warshaw’s testimony. Warshaw said Barmak had taken mushrooms and ketamine before the sudden turn of events.

Spiller testified the two were terrified and in disbelief and that Barmak also poured detergent on them in the house’s laundry room. Spiller said he fought for his life during the attack. He testified to seeing Wagner struggle with Barmak from a distance and heard a gunshot while fleeing the scene to get help.

Ramseur said during the preliminary hearing the only recorded interaction Barmak had with Wagner in their struggle was, “None of this is real,” and it was clear he was acting like a person not in his right mind. Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford said at the hearing Barmak used a knife and a hook during the attack and charged at others that night in a clear attempt to kill his targets.

Wagner’s death shocked the Nelson community and led to an outpouring of support for privately employed police officers to be covered with benefits under Virginia’s Line of Duty Act, a measure taken up but killed during the recent Virginia General Assembly session.

A status hearing for Barmak’s case is set for 1:30 p.m. May 28 in Nelson Circuit Court.


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