A homeowner will not be charged for fatally shooting an Albany schoolteacher who was drunk when he made his way into the wrong house after leaving a party next door, authorities said today.
A grand jury considered the case but declined to return charges against David D’Amico, who was awakened in his upstairs bedroom in the early morning hours of March 28 by the sound of 31-year-old David Park of Albany moving around on the first floor.
Police 911 tapes captured D’Amico’s frightened wife, Julie, calling to report an intruder and her husband in the background shouting from the stairway for the man to get out, Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said. There is no audible response from Park.
D’Amico, a 34-year-old construction supervisor, fired one round from a hunting rifle, killing Park before police arrived.
Toxicology reports showed Park was intoxicated and witness statements backed up those reports, Sedita said.
“He was a very nice man,” the prosecutor said of Park. “He was well-liked, well-respected. There’s no criminal record whatsoever. It’s terrible and tragic that he was killed but under the law, this was a justified shooting.”
“A homeowner is permitted to use deadly physical force in response to what he or she believes to be a legitimate burglar,” Sedita said.
Park, an award-winning fifth-grade teacher and youth sports coach, was in the Buffalo area for a “diaper party” for a friend whose wife was pregnant, Park’s sister said after the shooting. At some point, he left the party, went next door, opened a gate and entered the D’Amico home through an unlocked rear door.
“There was some effort on Mr. Park’s behalf to get into the house,” Sedita said. “There’s some fencing. There’s a latch. It looks like it was more than just getting lost and stumbling. There was some intentional, volitional conduct, some physical effort to actually get into the home.”
“That’s really the mystery of this case,” he said. “Why was Mr. Park in the house in the middle of the night?”
D’Amico’s lawyer said his client agreed to waive immunity and testify before the grand jury, giving a “heart-wrenching” account of what happened that night.
“This has been a huge weight off his shoulders,” attorney Thomas Burton said of the decision not to charge him, “but there are always residuals when a moral, decent person kills another and that’s not going to go away with a grand jury vote.”
Sedita declined to release Park’s blood alcohol level.
Telephone messages left with Park’s parents in Old Forge and in-laws in East Amherst were not returned Tuesday. No telephone listing could be located for Park’s widow, the former Deanna Ripstein.
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