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Buffalo Officer Paralyzed by Gunshot in 2006 Dies

Patricia A. "Patty" Parete, the Buffalo police officer who was paralyzed after being shot while on duty in 2006, died Saturday at age 48.

The exact cause of death was not immediately known Saturday night, but Parete had fought a long, arduous and brave battle since suffering spinal injuries from the shooting that left her paralyzed from the neck down, said James W. Panus, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.

News of her death early Saturday morning spread quickly through the ranks of the Buffalo Police Department, whose members had kept a vigil at her hospital bedside after the shooting more than six years ago.

"We're still reeling right now, honestly," Panus said Saturday. "It hurts just as much now as it did then."

A funeral for Parete will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Trinity Episcopal Church, 371 Delaware Ave.

"We woke up this morning to very sad news," Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said in a prepared statement. "Patricia Parete was a brave and courageous officer. We have suffered a tremendous loss -- not only this department, but our city and community, as well."

Mayor Byron W. Brown added: "My first reaction upon hearing the news of Officer Parete's passing was just total sadness. My thoughts, prayers and wishes are with her and her family at this time."

Parete -- who had a passion for the outdoors and her Harley-Davidson V-Rod motorcycle -- was accepted into the Police Department in 2001, at age 36.

Her fellow officers said she had great street instincts and an obsession with physical fitness. The 5-foot-6, 120-pound Parete had nearly zero percent body fat.

But on the night of Dec. 5, 2006, Parete and partner Carl Andolina responded to a fight call, when they were shot at West Chippewa Street and Whitney Place by Varner Harris Jr., then 19.

Parete was shot twice. The first bullet struck her bulletproof vest, but the second one struck her in the chin, traveling through her body and lodging in her spine. She suffered severe injuries to her spinal cord.

Parete spent nine months undergoing rehabilitation in the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J., before returning to Western New York, still unable to move her arms and legs.

Parete's struggle continued to make headlines, as the local community came together to raise more than a half-million dollars for her care, and in 2009 a new house was built in Niagara County to make it easier for Parete to get around in her wheelchair. The city and PBA Attorney Thomas H. Burton struck an unprecedented deal to pay salary and benefits to Parete's life partner and caregiver at the time.

But Parete had moved out of the public spotlight in recent years, and police officials said she recently was under hospice care.

She died at home just after 2 a.m. Saturday, police officials said.

Parete is survived by friend Polly Strait; her father, Anthony Sr.; two brothers, Anthony Jr. and Johnanthony; and a sister, Maria.

Copyright 2013 - The Buffalo News, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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