Investigators were trying to piece together how a routine traffic stop Thursday evening near Martin Luther King Park turned into a horrific tragedy that left a suspected drunk driver dead and a woman who just happened to be on the sidewalk fatally crushed under a utility pole nearly a half mile away.
The sequence of events began at about 6:45 p.m. when two Buffalo police officers with the housing unit pulled over Issak Parker, 48, near Best Street and Fillmore Avenue for what Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda described as a “minor” traffic violation.
The officers suspected Parker was intoxicated and one of them leaned into Parker’s vehicle to try to turn off the ignition and put the vehicle’s transmission into park.
But investigators said Parker hit the accelerator.
One of the officers then discharged his service weapon once, according to Buffalo Police Chief of Detectives Daniel J. Richards.
One officer was also dragged a short distance.
Parker’s vehicle sped north on Fillmore Avenue and went out of control, crashing into a parked car and several light standards, including a traffic light.
One of the poles crashed down on a woman outside Pikes Peak Market at 1318 Fillmore, according to police and witnesses.
A friend of the victim identified the woman as Ida Murphy, 54, of Northampton Street.
Parker’s SUV came to rest partially on a sidewalk with one of the poles on top, about four-tenths of a mile from where he had originally been stopped.
Both Murphy and Parker were pronounced dead at the scene.
Derenda said that the officers did not pursue Parker as he sped away from them.
Thomas H. Burton, attorney for the Police Benevolence Association, said the officers were “shaken” by what happened.
“It is an abject tragedy,” he said.
The officers were put on administrative leave, which is routine practice police-involved shootings.
Derenda said investigators were awaiting autopsy results to determine whether Parker was struck by the officer’s bullet as well as his blood alcohol level. Investigators were also trying to determine 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.
It was the third case this year in which a Buffalo police shooting has ended with a fatality.
In the other cases:
• 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, where 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 as police tried to handcuff him. An investigation showed that Sordetto was high on cocaine. An Erie County grand jury cleared officers of wrongdoing in the incident.
In three other cases, suspects who attacked or struggled with police were wounded when officers fired:
• On June 24, Wilson Morales, 17, of French Street, was wounded by police gunfire after leading officers on a high-speed car chase on the East Side. Two officers fired into his van after he tried to run them over. They also were cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury.
• On April 4, James J. Enyedy Sr., 69, of Black Rock, was shot and wounded after allegedly lunging at a police lieutenant and two officers with a knife in a hallway on Hamilton Street.
• On Feb. 16, Joseph L. Craig, 21, of Wyoming Avenue, was wounded by police after struggling with an officer over an assault rifle in the Genesee-Moselle neighborhood.
News Staff Reporter Dale Anderson contributed to this report.