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Hundreds Expected for Officer Parete's Funeral Today

8:48 AM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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Buffalo Police Officer Patricia Parete

BUFFALO, NY - Members of the Buffalo Police Department will honor the service of Officer Patricia Parete today with a 21-gun salute. Flags at City Hall and City Court will be lowered to respect her memory.

On Monday, the Niagara County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Parete's death a homicide.

WEB EXTRA: Legal analysis from former New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco

The tribute will follow the funeral service for Parete, who died over the weekend.  That service is set for 11:00 am at Trinity Episcopal Church, 371 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

There will be no parking on Delaware Avenue Wednesday between Virginia and West Tupper streets from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and no traffic permitted from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., Buffalo Police said. Traffic will be able to cross Delaware Avenue at Virginia, Edward and West Tupper streets.

The Buffalo Fire Department will be draping an American flag across Delaware Avenue at Tupper.  As part of the honors for Officer Parete, a 21 gun salute is planned sometime between noon-12:30 p.m.  Police want the public to know the salute will be loud.

Parete died more than six years after she was shot while on duty.

Parete and officer Carl Andolina were fired upon while answering a call on Buffalo's lower west side in December of 2006.

A bullet severed Parete's spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down. Andolina was also wounded in the attack.

"Now is not the time to relive the incident which shattered Patti Parete's life," said Andolina in a statement released to media Tuesday. "It should ... be a time to celebrate Patti's time with us and embrace her family and friends in love and support. Patti spent the last six years fighting every day. She was and always will be an inspiration to everyone she touched."

Parete's death now raises questions, though, whether her assailant should face a murder charge in the case. Varner Harris Jr. is serving a 30-year to life sentence after pleading guilty to charges of attempted murder, and could now face a charge of murder.

Frank Clark, who was the Erie County District Attorney at the time, said while it's possible, there could be legal issues could make it a difficult case to prosecute.

"The problem in this particular case, is that if the person has already convicted and sentenced, in my opinion, there would be a very strong argument that double jeopardy has attached and would preclude the DA from going back and recharging the person," Clark told WGRZ-TV by telephone from his current home in Arizona.

Current District Attorney Frank Sedita noted as well that a definitive connection would have to be made between what Parete finally succumbed to, and the actual shooting.

And that while it's legally possible to bring a case, Sedita said there might not be much wisdom to it.

After all, you'd be setting aside a conviction that will likely see Harris spend the rest of his life in prison, while opening the door to his potential acquittal on the murder charge.

Parete's domestic partner at the time of the shooting was was a nurse, and Attorney Tom Burton helped orchestrate and an unprecedented arrangement that would pay Parete's salary and benefits to her life partner, in order that she could care for her.

Burton also knows more than most about debilitating spinal injuries, having suffered one himself, which leaves him wheelchair bound. However, he eschews comparisons between himself and Parete.

"She had it worse than just about anyone could have it," Burton told Two On Your Side.

"What this officer...what this woman went through after she was shot was horrible...and that was in the service of our city and to its people. I just hope people will remember that," Burton said.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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