A Buffalo police officer learned Friday he was cleared of criminal responsibility by an Erie County Grand Jury in the 2012 shooting case that resulted in the deaths of a drunken driving suspect and an innocent bystander on Fillmore Avenue.
The grand jury found Officer Kenneth Agee, now an eight-year veteran with the Buffalo Police Department, was justified in the Dec. 6, 2012, shooting of 48-year-old Issac C. Parker on Fillmore Avenue.
The bizarre chain of events that left Parker, and 54-year-old bystander Ida Murphy, dead began at about 6:45 p.m. that night, when Parker’s sport utility vehicle was pulled over near the Buffalo Science Museum for a faulty headlight.
Agee, who was working in the department’s housing unit, and his partner Officer Jared Domaracki, suspected the driver, Parker, was intoxicated. Parker’s license was revoked at the time for two previous DWI convictions, according to reports.
As Domaracki reached in through the driver’s side window to turn off the ignition, and Agee did the same thing from the passenger’s side, authorities said, Parker hit the accelerator -- and took off down Fillmore.
That’s when Agee discharged his service weapon, according to reports. He shot Parker once in the right side.
Parker, sustaining a wound from a bullet that made its way into his upper torso, continued on Fillmore before crashing into three street light poles near Riley Street, authorities said.
One of them fell on Murphy, killing her at the scene.
Toxicology results later revealed Parker had a blood alcohol content of 0.32 percent.
“What these cops were trying to prevent is exactly what occurred,” said Thomas H. Burton, Agee’s attorney.
Burton, who’s represented officers in more then 200 police-involved shooting cases, said the officers themselves were “a second away from catastrophe.”
“This is a classic example how what started out as a routine stop went bad in an instant,” Burton said. “Who knows what the thought process is of a driver in that circumstance when they’re four times the legal limit of being drunk?”
Agee, who served in the U.S. Border Patrol before joining the Buffalo Police Department, waived his right to immunity and testified before the grand jury last week about the incident.
The grand jury returned a “no bill,” finding that there was insufficient evidence to support Agee's criminal prosecution.
It’s unusual for cases like this to take so long to present to a grand jury.
Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. explained there were a couple reasons why it did. They included:
• the reconstruction of the accident and subsequent investigation into how and when the gun was fired required substantial time to complete; and
• the file wasn’t immediately picked up by then District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
Flaherty told The Buffalo News he discovered the file in November 2015 as he prepared to move into the office that Sedita was leaving to become a judge.
The additional time was not due to delays by the district attorney’s office, Flaherty said, but rather coordinating the schedules and availability of the parties and counsel involved in the case.
Buffalo Police Department spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said the police department will begin its internal investigation.
Meanwhile, a civil case filed by Parker’s family has yet to be resolved.
The family filed a lawsuit against Agee and Domaracki along with the city of Buffalo, its police department and the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.
The lawsuit charged all were negligent in the matter and demanded compensation for loss of support, Parker’s pain and suffering and their own.
It alleged that Parker was shot without provocation, that he suffered physical anguish and pre-death terror, and that the officers’ conduct was “negligent, careless, reckless and unlawful.”
The case remains in the hands of Supreme Court Judge Joseph R. Glownia.
Glownia is scheduled to retire at the end of the month.
The next scheduled meeting on the civil case is slated to be held next July.
News Staff Reporters Aaron Besecker, Melinda Miller and Gene Warner contributed to this report.