The Associated Press
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The gunshot injuries that paralyzed Patricia Parete from the neck down six years ago were an affront to the independent, Harley Davidson-riding police officer, her doctor and friend said at her funeral Wednesday, describing Parete as an unwilling and difficult patient who could be as tender as she was tough.
"She never surrendered her core strength, her dignity, her pride," Dr. Christopher Kerr said inside Trinity Episcopal Church, where hundreds of police officers, friends and family members filled nearly every pew.
Parete, who recently had been under hospice care, died Saturday. Her death was ruled a homicide, but the exact cause was not released.
Now prosecutors are weighing whether to pursue a murder charge against the then-teenage shooter who fired multiple rounds at Parete and her partner as they chased him down a Buffalo street while investigating a fight at a convenience store in December 2006.
One bullet struck Parete's bulletproof vest while another pierced her face and severed her spine. Officer Carl Andolina was struck three times in the neck, arm and chest but was able to tackle the 18-year-old shooter to the ground. Andolina survived.
Varner Harris Jr., now 25, is serving 30 years to life in prison after pleading guilty in 2007 to two counts of attempted murder. Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III had not yet decided Wednesday whether to seek a murder charge, his office said. Sedita has said it's unlikely that Harris, who was on probation for the robbery of a pizza delivery man at the time of the shooting, would ever be paroled.
The day before the funeral, Andolina issued a statement urging people to celebrate his partner's life and embrace her family.
"Now is not the time to relive the incident which shattered Patty Parete's life," the statement said.
At Wednesday's service, Mayor Byron Brown said the shooting that occurred near the end of his first year in office "served to remind us that police work isn't just another job but a higher calling."
To Parete's friends and relatives, the mayor said: "The entire Buffalo community also feels the pain."
Parete, 48, had been a police officer since 2001.
"Patty was a breath of fresh air in the platoon," Officer Daniel Meegan said, smiling at the memory of her making things up about her co-workers on the computer. "She had quite a sense of humor."
"The job was going good. We were all getting along and enjoying each other. Then came Dec. 5," Meegan said. For weeks after the shooting, police officers kept vigil at the hospital and prayed for a miracle, he said.
Then "the hope of that miracle started to fade," Meegan said. A benefit for Parete raised more than a half million dollars and a new wheelchair-accessible house was built for her and her life partner and caregiver at the time.