I haven’t posted on the semi-local* incident of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy who killed his ex-wife at a gas station and then got into a shootout with state troopers on the interstate on Monday, because there wasn’t a lot of information beyond the basics, and I didn’t really know where to go with it. When a cop goes that bad, with what was apparently little to no warning, there’s not a whole lot most people can do. There’s no indication from the available information that the victim knew he was following her until he got out of the truck and shot her. Even if she did, she did the appropriate thing by going to a crowded area. It sounds like the violence was sudden and unanticipated, and she wouldn’t have had much (if any) time to react.
But now this information has surfaced.
Almost a half-hour before Jennifer Carter Agee was shot to death on Memorial Day, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was warned that her sheriff’s deputy ex-husband had an assault rifle and was driving to Salem to kill her.
But Sheriff Ewell Hunt told his dispatch center not to issue a “be on the lookout” alert to other law enforcement agencies, saying he would take care of the situation himself, according to a sheriff’s office radio call log. [emphasis mine]
He instead called the Salem police department directly. He claims “I thought I could get the fastest response by making personal contact,” but when he couldn’t get direct contact with a supervisor he simply left a message with the dispatcher for someone to call him. By the time he got that return call, thirteen minutes later, Jennifer Agee had already been shot. [Note: To avoid confusion, I will refer to the victim either as “the victim” or “Jeniffer Agee”, and the shooter as “the shooter” or Dep. Agee.]
Rather than issue an immediate alert that would have had every police officer in the area actively looking for a rogue deputy who was threatening homicide (and for the intended victim so she could be protected), he waited almost a quarter of an hour for a call back that might never have come – plenty of time for that deputy to reach his destination and commit his planned murder without interference. Additionally, the department he called does not cover the area where the shooting ended up actually happening, which was in the neighboring city of Roanoke.
There are only two reasons I can think of for him to do this. He may have been concerned that Dep. Agee would hear the BOL and know they were looking for him, since he was known to be in a patrol car at the time. But that reason doesn’t wash when you realize that he a) knew that his current wife had called the Sheriff’s Office and told them what he intended, and b) they were trying to call him on the radio – alerting him to the fact that they were trying to locate him. Additionally, in the local departments every officer has a cell phone and the number is on file with dispatch. A “silent” BOL by cell phone could have been easily issued, keeping it off the radios.
The other reason would be to keep the situation quiet. Dep. Agee already had previous disciplinary issues that had resulted in bad publicity for the department. The Sheriff may have been attempting to keep everything under wraps to avoid further bad publicity, or to try and protect Dep. Agee’s career. Those previous issues involved the Sheriff’s 17 year-old (at the time) daughter. Since Dep. Agee still had a job after that, you know that the Sheriff both liked Dep. Agee, and clandestinely approved of his actions at the time.
Either way, it is entirely possible that Jennifer Agee would still be alive had he not withheld critical, urgent information from the neighboring agencies. They could have found her before he did and taken her into protective custody, or they could have found and stopped him before he found her. The second possibility would probably still have resulted in a shootout with the officers that found him, but that is a risk every officer knows is possible when they take the job, and it would have protected an innocent civilian – which should always be any police officer’s first concern.
Instead, we have an innocent woman shot to death by her ex-husband in front of their daughter, and a State Trooper injured in the line of duty.
Remember, the police are not required to protect you.
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* He killed his ex-wife in a neighboring county, and the shootout took place in my county, but not “locally” in my county.
[Source: Roanoke Times story, retrieved 6/1/11]
Update: Welcome, readers from Snowflakes in Hell! On a blog that rarely breaks 50 views in a day, you’ve pushed it over 300 today! (So is that called a Bitterlanche?)
I just wish it wasn’t such a tragic story that did it.