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Shooting of officers has tragic familiarity

The news hit Buffalo Police Officer Daniel R. O'Neill like a thunderbolt last week when he learned that two fellow officers had been shot and seriously wounded at the corner of West Chippewa and Georgia streets.

On an evening 39 years ago, a beloved uncle of O'Neill's -- also a city cop -- was shot and killed at the same intersection. The Nov. 27, 1967, slaying of Officer William Gleisle was in some ways strikingly similar to the Tuesday night shootings of Officer Patricia A. Parete and Carl E. Andolina.

"It's so uncanny, because of the similarities and the location . . . It really shakes me," said O'Neill, who visited the site with a reporter on Saturday.

"When my uncle was shot, he and his partner were chasing a guy. They told him, 'Take your hand out of your pocket,' and he pulled out a gun and shot at them. The same thing happened to Patty and Carl."

The street corner where his uncle died is directly across Chippewa from the place where Parete and Andolina were shot. As of Saturday evening, Andolina was home, recovering from his injuries. Parate still is in Erie County Medical Center, where she has been awake and alert, but remains on a ventilator to help her breathe, police officials have said.

While there have been conflicting reports about Parete's official status, she has been and remains listed in critical condition, Thomas Quatroche, spokesman for ECMC, said Saturday.

O'Neill, 45, a 19-year police veteran, is the founder and president of the Buffalo Police Fallen Officers Memorial Society. Since 1997, he has dedicated much of his time to creating memorials that honor the memories of the 45 Buffalo Police officers who have died in the line of duty.

The society arranged for signs honoring each officer to be posted throughout the city. A sign honoring Gleisle is at the intersection of South Elmwood Avenue and Chippewa -- about a block from where he was slain.

"We do it because we don't want people ever to forget these officers, the risks they took and the contributions they made to the community," O'Neill said.

A patrolman in the Ferry-Fillmore District, O'Neill comes from a family heavily populated with cops -- including his wife, Tara O'Neill -- and city firefighters. He is a friend of both Andolina and Parete. He said he has long admired and respected the work of both officers.

O'Neill is proud of the way officers stick together at times of tragedy. On the night Parete and Andolina were shot, he was off-duty, watching the Buffalo Sabres game on television. He drove immediately to the Erie County Medical Center and joined other officers who went to the hospital to pray and show support.

"There had to be 70 or 80 of us there. I finally left about 3 a.m.," O'Neill said. "When I was driving home, it really started to hit me hard, thinking about these officers being shot so close to where my uncle was killed."

Growing up in South Buffalo, O'Neill learned some early life lessons about the dangers of police work. Gleisle was the first of two uncles who were slain while working as Buffalo patrolmen. O'Neill was 6 years old when his parents gathered the family together and solemnly told them Gleisle had been killed.

Gleisle and his partner, Officer Robert Peckey, had gone to Dewey's Diner, then a popular Chippewa Street eatery, for coffee and doughnuts. While they were in the restaurant, a waitress nervously handed them a note, telling them that a man sitting in a nearby booth was carrying a gun.

The two officers went over to question the man, and he bolted out of the restaurant and ran outside, down Chippewa Street.

"They were chasing him down the street, and he had his hand in his pocket. They yelled at him to take his hand out of his pocket, and he pulled out the gun and started shooting," O'Neill said. "One shot went through Peckey's hat, and another killed my uncle."

Peckey, who was also hit in the arm by gunfire, chased the suspect for blocks and caught him on Delaware Avenue. The killer, Michael "Mickey" Privitiera, was a 33-year-old junkie who had been previously convicted of rape. Privitiera was convicted of killing Gleisle and died in the Attica State Correctional Facility, where fellow inmates killed him during Attica's infamous 1971 uprising.

On Oct. 7, 1970, another uncle of O'Neill's, Officer Joseph O'Neill, was shot and killed by a mentally disturbed prisoner he was transporting to what was then Meyer Memorial Hospital. The prisoner shot O'Neill after grabbing another officer's gun.

"The thing that links all these incidents together is how senseless they all are," O'Neill said. "All these officers died for reasons that make no sense at all. The shooting of Patty and Carl was senseless, too."

And O'Neill had dinner Friday night with the widow of yet another police victim of senseless violence. Teri Longobardo, the widow of State Trooper Joseph Longobardo, was visiting Buffalo to thank staffers at the Erie County Medical Center who tried to save her husband.

In August, Longobardo was fatally shot in Chautauqua County by escaped convict Ralph "Bucky" Phillips.

"A few of us from the Fallen Officers Society took her to dinner. We had a long talk with Teri," O'Neill said. "She told us how much she appreciates all the Buffalo officers who came to the hospital to show their support when her husband was being treated there."

Although she lives hundreds of miles away in Saratoga Springs, Teri Longobardo had heard about the shootings of Andolina and Parete, and of Parete's fight for survival.

"Teri told us she's praying for them," O'Neill said.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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