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Wounded officer's condition improves Andolina Sent Home With Bullet In Neck Parete's partner gives more details of shooting

Wounded Buffalo Police Officer Carl E. Andolina left the hospital Thursday with a bullet still lodged in his neck, while fellow Officer Patricia A. Parete has been upgraded to serious condition in the trauma intensive care unit.

Andolina was released from Erie County Medical Center on Thursday morning, after a teenage gunman reportedly fired at the two officers at point-blank range Tuesday evening.

A bullet pierced Parete's face and severed her spine. Andolina was hit in the arm and the neck. Varner Harris Jr., a week shy of his 19th birthday, has been charged.

A .38-caliber bullet is still lodged in the left side of Andolina's neck, but doctors want to wait until swelling goes down before deciding what to do, said Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson.

"He was just millimeters from being in the same condition [Parete] is," Gipson said.

Before Andolina left the hospital, he wanted to see Parete.

While Parete can't communicate, she is cognizant at times and appears to understand, Gipson said.

Andolina and Parete -- both 41, both graduates of the Police Academy in 2001 -- were riding together on a special detail that evening.

"He is doing better, in somewhat better spirits," Gipson said Thursday. "He feels bad, like he could have done more."

Andolina already indicated he wants to get back to work, Gipson said. Gipson told him he needs time to heal.

"His heart and mind need to heal, as well," Gipson said.

When Gipson spoke with Andolina, the commissioner received a more detailed account of what happened when the two officers were dispatched to the Valero gas station on the corner of Chippewa Street and South Elmwood Avenue for the report of a fight.

Here's how Gipson recounted the story:

Andolina and Parete, who were backing up the call, rolled up to the scene just after 9 p.m. They spoke with someone at the Metro Bus stop across the street about the disturbance at the gas station, when a woman approached.

The woman had been threatened by a man, who had just left the store and now was heading west on Chippewa by Hutchinson-Central Technical High School.

Andolina and Parete took after the suspect in their cruiser. They cut him off a block away at Chippewa and Whitney Place.

Parete stepped out from the passenger side. She ordered the suspect to turn around and take his hands out of his pockets.

Andolina got out from behind the wheel. He approached the suspect and grabbed him by the arm.

Andolina took a white plastic bag being carried by the suspect, Harris, and placed it on the ground.

Andolina then took a beverage from the suspect's coat. He turned to place it on the police cruiser.

"I told you to take your hand out of your pocket," Parete told Harris.

The suspect removed his hand from his pocket, revealing a .38-caliber revolver.

He fired at Parete, just a few feet away. Her bulletproof vest blocked the bullet aimed at her chest.

The gunman fired a second shot. It pierced her face.

Andolina grabbed the gunman by both arms.

A third shot hit Andolina in the arm. The bullet exited near his shoulder.

Andolina grabbed him tighter. A fourth shot careened over Andolina's shoulder.

The gunman pulled his arm back and fired a fifth shot. The bullet hit Andolina just below the chin and lodged in the back of his neck.

Andolina took the suspect down to the ground, and rolled his 6-foot-7-inch frame on top of him. His blood spilled onto the suspect.

The gunman was still pulling the trigger. Andolina could hear the clicking.

"Officer down! Officer down!" went across the police radio.

Help arrived, and an officer handcuffed the suspect.

Andolina yelled for someone to call an ambulance.

"She needs help," he said. "Somebody help her."

At the hospital Thursday, officers from throughout the city continued to visit during the day.

"This is family," said Central District Officer David A. Rodriguez. "When Patty and Carl were shot, it was like our brother or sister being shot. We all bleed blue together."

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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