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Widow drops suit in fatal shooting

The widow of Albany teacher David W. Park has decided not to sue a homeowner who shot and killed her husband after he entered an Amherst home early March 28.

David H. Elibol, a Buffalo attorney representing Deanna Ripstein, Park's widow, issued a terse statement Monday to the news media, saying that Ripstein has withdrawn a wrongful-death lawsuit that she filed earlier this month against David D'Amico.

Elibol declined to give a reason for withdrawing the State Supreme Court lawsuit, but he said the decision was reached "after careful consideration."

D'Amico and his wife, Julie, are thankful that Ripstein has decided not to pursue the lawsuit, Thomas H. Burton, the couple's attorney, told The Buffalo News.

Burton said that, in his view, the incident was a tragedy for all involved and the lawsuit never should have been filed in the first place.

"While this has been a terrible tragedy for David Park's family, it has been very hard on the D'Amico family as well," Burton said.

Ripstein withdrew the lawsuit two days after The News published a story saying the suit accused D'Amico of "willful, intentional [and] malicious" conduct in shooting Park. The lawsuit suggested that D'Amico was entirely at fault, with no negligence on Park's part.

Saturday's story prompted numerous readers to criticize Ripstein and her attorney in comments on The News website.

In May, an Erie County grand jury decided not to file any criminal charges against D'Amico in the shooting in his Millbrook Court home in the town's Maplemere neighborhood.

The grand jury's "no-bill" followed an extensive investigation by Amherst Police and the Erie County District Attorney's Office. Authorities said the investigation had found that Park was legally intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Park, 31, was an award-winning elementary school teacher in Albany's public schools, with no criminal record. He and D'Amico, who was 34 at the time of the shooting and is now 35, did not know each other.

Police said Park was attending a party at friends' home next door to the D'Amicos. For reasons that remain a mystery, Park left the party and, at about 1:30 a.m., walked into the D'Amicos' home through an unlocked rear door while the D'Amicos were asleep in an upstairs bedroom.

According to Burton, D'Amico heard noises downstairs and went down to look around, but at that time, did not find Park. D'Amico went back upstairs and soon heard noises again. The attorney said Julie D'Amico called police at 911 to report an intruder, while David D'Amico repeatedly warned the intruder to leave, telling him that he had a gun and would use it.

"David Park walked all the way through the house and never stopped moving, despite the repeated warnings shouted by my client," Burton said.

Park was at the bottom of a stairway leading up toward the D'Amicos' bedroom when D'Amico shot at him, Burton said. The attorney said D'Amico fired because he feared Park was about to ascend the stairs toward the bedroom.

"He was concerned for the safety of himself and his wife," Burton said.

In an interview last week, Elibol declined to comment when asked if Park's family ever found out why he left the party and headed into the D'Amicos' home. He said the family has "more questions than answers" about what happened.

When asked about the lawsuit last week, Elibol noted that different legal standards and burdens of proof apply in a civil trial, compared with a criminal case.

The lawsuit, which did not seek a specific amount in monetary damages, had accused D'Amico of negligence and causing a wrongful death.

News Staff Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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