Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Police: Off-duty Franklin Co. deputy kills ex-wife, injures state trooper after long-range pursuit
Sam Dean | The Roanoke Times
Both northbound lanes of I-81 were closed at mile 127, as police investigated the shooting at the Ironto exit off the interstate. State police say the backup stretched as far south as mile 113.
Photo by Sam Dean / The Roanoke Times
Emergency personnel load Jonathan Agee onto the Life-Guard helicopter for transport to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital after he was injured in an exchange of gunfire with state troopers.
Photo by Sam Dean / The Roanoke Times
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office cruiser that Jonathan Agee was driving as he attempted to evade state police this afternoon sits on the Exit 128 off-ramp of I-81 in Ironto.
Photo gallery: Police investigate shootings
During a violent Memorial Day spree, an off-duty Franklin County deputy shot and killed his ex-wife in a Roanoke convenience store parking lot and then fled in his patrol car, police said.
Then, after a nearly hour-long pursuit that ended in Montgomery County, the deputy was stopped by police gunfire — after a state trooper was wounded and the resulting investigation shut down a northbound section of Interstate 81 for hours.
The Franklin County deputy, identified by state police as Jonathan Ashley Agee, 32, of Boones Mill was shot multiple times, likely by troopers, as he was being pursued into Ironto, said state police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty.
Agee was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he was listed in critical condition Monday night.
He has been charged with murder in the case, according to Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins.
The wounded state trooper, Sgt. Matthew Brannock, 35, was shot by Agee during the pursuit, reportedly in the leg. Flaherty said Brannock’s injuries weren’t life-threatening.
The incident began about 11:30 a.m. when Jennifer Louise Agee, 30, drove into the parking lot of the Sheetz store on Williamson Road, according to Perkins.
Perkins said Jonathan Agee pulled in behind his ex-wife, got out of his marked patrol vehicle and shot her several times with a rifle. Jennifer Agee was pronounced dead upon her arrival at Roanoke Memorial.
An unidentified person in Jennifer Agee’s pickup truck, a child believed to be the Agees’ daughter, was unharmed, Perkins said.
After the shooting, Agee got back in his cruiser and left the scene, following U.S. 11/460 toward Christiansburg until he was spotted by Brannock, state police spokesman Sgt. Rob Carpentieri said. He said that when Brannock turned on his police lights to pull Agee over, Agee responded by turning on his police lights as well.
Lights flashing, they both got on Interstate 81 at Exit 118, heading north. Near mile marker 125, Agee stopped his vehicle and fired at Brannock, Carpentieri said. It was unclear Monday whether Brannock was in or out of his vehicle at the time he was injured. Agee continued driving north on the interstate, pursued by two additional unmarked state police cruisers. He was hit by law enforcement fire and came to a stop about three-quarters of the way up the exit ramp at mile marker 128 near Ironto in Montgomery County, Carpentieri said. The investigation is ongoing, but Carpentieri said it appears the shots that struck Agee came from the troopers who were giving chase.
Both northbound lanes of the interstate were closed at mile 127, and the Virginia Department of Transportation said traffic at times was backed up for more than 12 miles. Northbound traffic was detoured off the interstate at Exit 118 and rerouted on U.S. 11. The interstate lanes were reopened about 7 p.m.
Franklin County Circuit Court records show that Jonathan and Jennifer Agee filed for divorce in 2005.
Photo courtesy of Christina Bolduc
Christina Bolduc , Jennifer Agee’s aunt, said the former couple had two daughters, ages 6 and 12.
The oldest daughter was with her mother at the time of the shooting, said Bolduc, of Maine, who left Roanoke on Sunday after spending the weekend with her family.
She said Jennifer Agee, who lived in Salem with her mother, worked at Mac and Bob’s as a waitress and at Elizabeth Arden as a receptionist. Jennifer Agee had custody of the oldest daughter and Jonathan Agee had custody of the youngest.
It was a subject of some tension, Bolduc said .
“We are all still in shock,” Bolduc said. “This is not supposed to happen. We are supposed to be able to trust law enforcement.”
In a release issued late Monday, Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt said Agee has been suspended without pay and has been charged with unauthorized use of a Franklin County vehicle.
Hunt declined to comment further, directing all questions to the Roanoke police, who are handling the investigation.
“We are shocked and saddened by today’s tragic events,” Hunt said.
The suspect is the son of Steve Agee, who retired as a sergeant with the Rocky Mount Police Department after more than 30 years of service and is a former Rocky Mount town councilman .
Jonathan Agee’s law enforcement career was tinged with controversy at least once before — in 2009, a special grand jury focused on the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s employment of Hunt’s teenage daughter, Ashley. Sheriff Hunt was later cleared of a misdemeanor charge of failing to keep proper records, but the grand jury’s report found that Ashley Hunt and Jonathan Agee had a relationship that “exposed her, other employees ... and members of the general public to demonstrated risk and significantly increased exposure of the department to civil liability.” [Read more about the case.]
It also described how Ashley Hunt, employed as a clerk in the sheriff’s office during high school, accompanied Agee on stakeouts, patrols, drug buys and arrests, roundups and the processing of arrestees, despite being a minor and not a sworn investigator. The report said Agee later faced disciplinary action for the infractions.
Brannock, who has been with state police 12 years, was one of the first responders to the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007, and was depicted in a much-circulated photograph as one of four men who carried shooting victim Kevin Sterne to safety. [read more about Brannock and the photo.]
Staff writers Mike Gangloff, Jordan Fifer, Lindsey Nair and Sheila Ellis, photographer Sam Dean and news researcher Belinda Harris contributed to this report.
Map: From Roanoke to Ironto, via Christiansburg
Police say Jonathan Agee fled the scene of his ex-wife's killing in Roanoke Monday and headed west on U.S. 460, toward Christiansburg. A state trooper caught his trail along the way. Here's how police say the rest of the day unfolded.
View Police: Off-duty Franklin Co. deputy kills ex-wife, injures state trooper after long-range pursuit in a larger map