Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Memorial Day shooting: 911 call warned of deputy's plan

Jonathan Agee's second wife told authorities of his intent to kill his ex-wife, but Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt decided to deal with the situation himself.

Jonathan Agee

Jonathan Agee

Jennifer Agee

Jennifer Agee

Ewell Hunt

Ewell Hunt


UPDATE June 1: Deputy killed ex-wife after she told new wife of 'ongoing relationship,' warrant says

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.

Then the sheriff called the police department in Salem, where Jennifer Agee lived and where he apparently thought Deputy Jonathan Agee was headed.

"I thought I could get the fastest response by making personal contact," Hunt said Tuesday.

Hunt failed to reach a Salem police supervisor. He left a message with a dispatcher asking for a return call, Salem Police Chief Jeff Dudley said.

Hunt's call was returned 13 minutes later, Salem city spokesman Mike Stevens said.

That was at 11:31 a.m. By then, Jennifer Agee, 30, lay dying, shot with a rifle not in Salem but in Roanoke, in the parking lot of the Sheetz convenience store on Orange Avenue.

Her former husband, Jonathan Agee, 32, then led police on a roundabout chase down U.S. 460 through Montgomery County, then back toward Roanoke on northbound Interstate 81. About mile marker 125, Agee briefly stopped his Franklin County patrol car and shot and wounded a Virginia State Police sergeant, police said.

At Exit 128, Agee stopped again on the Ironto off-ramp. He was shot by two pursuing state troopers, then airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he remained Tuesday, facing a murder charge in the death of his ex-wife.

As more details of the Memorial Day shootings emerged, Jennifer Agee's co-workers at Mac and Bob's restaurant in Salem grieved, and colleagues of wounded state police Sgt. Matthew Brannock expressed relief that he had not been more badly injured.

Monday's shootings

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Earlier story

Mac and Bob's General Manager Keith Griswold called Jennifer Agee, a waitress at the restaurant for about two years, fun and hardworking.

"She did a fantastic job for us. We're going to miss her very much," Griswold said.

He said the Mac and Bob's staff was stunned by the killing, and lunch customers expressed condolences Tuesday.

Griswold said Agee usually reported to work about 5:30 p.m. after finishing her day job at Elizabeth Arden. She worked about 30 hours per week, sometimes staying until 12:30 a.m.

Agee enjoyed her work, Griswold said, but didn't talk much about her private life.

"When she came in that door, she was all business," Griswold said.

Brannock, whose 36th birthday was Monday, was shot in the upper leg. He was released from the hospital Tuesday, state police Sgt. Rob Carpentieri said.

Carpentieri said Brannock is not ready to discuss the chase of Jonathan Agee publicly.

Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper drove Brannock's brother, Daniel Brannock, a corporal with his office, to the hospital Monday. Draper said Matthew Brannock seemed shaken, but in good spirits.

Franklin County Sheriff's Office radio logs

These radio logs reflect the communication among the county's dispatch center and its law enforcement officers - including Sheriff Ewell Hunt, deputies and state police - on the morning of May 30, 2011.

  • The logs contain police shorthand in many instances. Some personal information - addresses and cell phone numbers of the individuals involved - has been redacted.
  • "Car 1" is Sheriff Hunt. "CAR 52" is Jonathan Agee.
  • "ADV" means "advised." "BOL" means "be on the lookout." "UNK" is "unknown."


Jonathan Agee’s recent years

  • 2000: Marries Jennifer Louise Carter.
  • 2004: Joins Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, assigned to the jail.
  • July 2004: Separates from Jennifer Agee.
  • January 2005: Begins taking Sheriff Ewell Hunt’s then-17-year-old daughter, Ashley, on drug stakeouts and patrols, often leaving them alone together at night. Agee was disciplined but kept his job.
  • 2005: Divorces Jennifer Agee, citing “irreconcilable and unhappy differences.” Couple share custody of two daughters, who live with their mother, but visit their father regularly.
  • February 2010: Custody agreement with Jennifer Agee appealed by one of the parents. One daughter lives with each parent.
  • Monday: Accused of killing Jennifer Agee and wounding Virginia State Police Sgt. Matthew Brannock. Is shot by state troopers and hospitalized.

Sources: Court records, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, former Franklin County Sheriff Quint Overton, family of Jennifer Agee.

As many as 20 Roanoke County and Virginia State Police officers, including Col. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, had rushed to the hospital to hear about Brannock's condition.

"There were some tears," Draper said.

According to a Franklin County Sheriff's Office radio log, police learned of Monday's brewing trouble with an 11:07 a.m. call from Julia Angell, a Roanoke sheriff's deputy who married Jonathan Agee after his 2005 divorce from Jennifer Agee.

Angell said that Agee had left their home in Boones Mill in his patrol car with an assault rifle, saying he was going to Salem to kill his ex-wife.

The radio log said that while Angell was on the phone, Agee returned to the house.

"His voice was heard in the background, sounds like that he knows that she called 911," the log said.

Agee left again, and dispatchers sent a text message to Hunt to tell him what was going on.

At 11:15 a.m., a Franklin County officer suggested calling Roanoke County and Salem and issuing a "BOL," or "be on the lookout" alert. Hunt "advised not to call, that he will take care of it," the log said.

Other details from the radio log:

  • At 11:17 a.m., Hunt told dispatch to call Agee on the radio and tell him to call the sheriff. Agee would not answer.
  • At 11:20 a.m., the dispatcher asked a deputy to check on Angell at her home "in case he goes back to the address."

    "She sounds very scared," the log said.

  • At 12:03 p.m., about a half-hour after Jennifer Agee was killed, Agee called a Rocky Mount police officer who was a friend and said he would surrender to him -- but that the friend "would have to kill him."
  • At 12:11 p.m., with police chasing Agee in Montgomery County, Franklin County officers brought his parents, Angell and one of his daughters to the sheriff's office for protection.

As Agee was pursued through Montgomery County, his patrol car was struck by a pursuing state police car driven by Sgt. Brannock near I-81's mile marker 125, according to Carpentieri. The front of Brannock's car hit the passenger side of Agee's, Carpentieri said.

Brannock got out of his car and Agee began firing at him, Carpentieri said.

Video: Police provide details of violent day

Video by Ryan Loew | The Roanoke Times

Another car that was not involved in the chase also was damaged, either by gunshots or crashing, Carpentieri said. The occupants were not hurt, he said.

The shootings and chase created hours of miles-long traffic backup on northbound I-81 Monday. Delays continued Tuesday as state police investigation teams temporarily closed lanes to re-create the movement of people and vehicles during Agee's flight.

Hunt said Tuesday that he would limit his comments because of the ongoing state police investigation of Agee and the personnel issues surrounding his employment. Agee was put on unpaid leave at the sheriff's office Monday.

Hunt disciplined Agee after the deputy began taking Hunt's daughter, then 17, on overnight drug stakeouts and patrols in 2005, according to a grand jury report that led to the sheriff's arrest on a misdemeanor record-keeping charge. Hunt was later cleared.

Hunt explained his decision not to issue a wider alert Monday by saying that he thought Agee was heading to Salem, and that the quickest way to alert other agencies would be by calling himself.

Tod Burke, a Radford University professor of criminal justice and a former police officer, said that in situations such as Monday's, it's typical for police agencies to notify all surrounding jurisdictions.

"The greatest delay is not the police officer responding to the crime, it's the report of the crime," Burke said.

Staff writers Shawna Morrison, Neil Harvey and Jordan Fifer 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

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