Ida Murphy’s neighbors saw her Thursday night as she walked from her Northampton Street home, decorated with red bows and Christmas wreath, over to Fillmore Avenue.
“Hi, Miss Ida,” they called to the woman, beloved on her street for her devotion to the neighborhood’s children.
The 54-year-old grandmother was headed to the market around the corner and just a couple of blocks up Fillmore to get some juice.
No one could have anticipated the tragic sequence of events that soon followed: A traffic stop over a minor violation at Fillmore Avenue and Best Street, about a half-mile away, led to a police officer firing his weapon, a suspected drunk driver accelerating his SUV and crashing into three light poles, one of which toppled onto Murphy, killing her instantly.
“This whole situation is just so crazy,” said her daughter, Kinyatta Murphy, trembling as she spoke.
On Friday, homicide detectives and investigators with the police department’s Internal Affairs Division were still trying to piece together how the routine traffic stop went so horribly wrong.
Authorities said two officers with the department’s housing unit pulled the SUV over about 6:45 p.m. at Fillmore and Best, along the south edge of Martin Luther King Park.
The driver was identified as Issac C. Parker, 48, of Briscoe Avenue.
According to Department of Motor Vehicle records, Parker had two convictions for driving while intoxicated in 2006 in Erie County – one in September and another in October – and his driver’s license had been revoked.
The officers who stopped Parker suspected he was intoxicated. Some sort of argument followed, and one of the officers leaned into Parker’s vehicle to try to turn off the ignition and put the transmission into park.
But Parker hit the accelerator and sped north, and an officer was dragged a short distance.
One of the officers discharged his service weapon once, according to Buffalo Police Chief of Detectives Daniel J. Richards, although it wasn’t immediately clear which one fired.
Parker’s vehicle sped north on Fillmore through the park and went out of control, crashing into a parked car and several light standards, including a traffic light.
One of the poles hit Murphy, at Fillmore and Riley Street. She was either on her way to or had just left Pikes Peak Market at 1318 Fillmore, according to police and witnesses.
Both Murphy and Parker were pronounced dead at the scene. Parker died of a gunshot wound and Murphy, blunt force trauma, according to Erie County medical examiners. Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who said the officers did not pursue Parker as he sped away, called the incident a “tragic situation. This lady was standing on the sidewalk.”
The officers were placed on administrative leave, which is a routine practice for police involved in shootings.
Derenda said investigators were still awaiting further test results to determine Parker’s blood-alcohol level and whether Murphy had been hit by Parker’s car before the pole fell on her.
One of the officers was treated Thursday night for non-life-threatening injuries in Erie County Medical Center, Richards said.
Friday afternoon, Murphy’s daughter remembered her mother as a kind and generous woman who doted on the neighborhood children. “She loved kids,” Kinyatta Murphy said. “That was just her. She had a way with people.”
Ida Murphy grew up in Mobile, Ala., before moving to Buffalo. She was a mother of three children and had four grandchildren.
Murphy was known for rounding up the neighborhood kids from Northampton and Riley streets and taking them to the park, the public pool and the Buffalo Museum of Science.
“She didn’t care whose kids they were,” she said. “She’d take anybody.”
Friends also mourned the loss of a kindly neighbor.
They said she was an active member of Antioch Baptist Church, across the street from where she died. She volunteered at the church’s food pantry and also the True Bethel Church’s clothing pantry. “She was a beautiful person,” said Fredean Honeycutt.
At the spot she died, mourners decorated a chain link fence with Teddy bears and flowers.
“I love you. I will miss you,” someone wrote on a card attached to the fence.
A vigil in her honor was being planned for 6 p.m. Sunday at her church.
On Briscoe Avenue, neighbors recalled Parker, the driver, as a good person who lent a hand to seniors who lived on the street and who regularly displayed American and Marine Corps flags at his home, though he didn’t talk about any military service.
Parker was employed as a clerk at Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Bailey Avenue, according to Jill Cieslik, who lives across the street, and an ex-neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“He was an awesome neighbor,” said Cieslik, who described Parker as a homebody.
Cieslik and Dennis Brown, whose girlfriend has lived across the street from Parker for many years, said Parker liked to drink beer and they knew he didn’t use a car for many years because of previous drinking-and-driving charges. But they assumed he had gotten his license back because he recently resumed driving.
“He’d be OK for a while,” Cieslik said, but then he would start drinking heavily again. “You could tell when he was doing well, and when he wasn’t, by the maintenance [of his house].”
The shooting incident marked the third case this year in which a Buffalo police shooting has ended with a fatality:
• On Aug. 1, Charlene M. Fears, 38, who had a history of mental illness, was killed by an officer when she lunged at him with a pair of butcher knives in a home on Esser Street. Police had been called after Fears stabbed her 4-year-old grandson. The boy, Roderick “Manny” Geiger III, died after being taken to Women & Children’s Hospital.
• On May 27, John A. Sordetto, 25, of Buffalo, a parole violator, died after being shot by an officer when he apparently went for the officer’s gun holster during a scuffle on Tonawanda Street. An investigation showed that Sordetto was high on cocaine. An Erie County grand jury cleared officers of wrongdoing in the incident.
News Staff Reporters Stephen T. Watson, Matt Gryta, T.J. Pignataro and Dale Anderson contributed to this report.