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Vigil Held For Slain Poughkeepsie Police Officer

Officer John Falcone (credit: 1010 WINS)

Officer John Falcone (credit: 1010 WINS)

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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) — A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening for Poughkeepsie Police Officer John Falcone, a 44-year-old police force veteran, with mourners walking from the Italian Center behind City Hall to a memorial at the train station.

Officer Falcone was killed by a wounded, bleeding gunman who first shot his wife and then himself in a parked car, authorities said Sunday. The couple’s 3-year-old daughter, who also was in the car, was physically unharmed.

Citing newly released autopsy results, Poughkeepsie police Chief Ron Knapp told a news conference that Lee Welch pumped two bullets into Jessica Welch while the couple sat in the family car near a train station Friday afternoon. The mother of three died of a gunshot to her head, Knapp said.

Her husband then shot himself in the chest and grabbed the child as he staggered out of the car before trying to flee, with police officers approaching, the chief said.

Officer Falcone was killed by a bullet to the head fired by the bleeding gunman as he struggled with the officers, the Dutchess County medical examiner’s office found, Knapp said.

An autopsy revealed Lee Welch died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, which the chief said was ruled a “suicide shot.”

The station also is where the gunman committed suicide, ending a bloody chase whose details police officials and investigators were still untangling Sunday.

The violence started at about 1 p.m. Friday, when police received a report of a shooting in the parking lot near the station.

Falcone and other officers responding to the scene saw Welch, 27, leaving with the toddler in his arms, waving a gun and clutching his chest, Knapp said. They ordered Welch to drop his gun, and an officer wrestled the girl away from him and handed her to a bystander before what the chief said was a “close struggle” between police and the gunman.

Welch fired at least twice, hitting Falcone in the head with one of the shots, Knapp said. The gunman then was tackled by a second officer, who dislocated his shoulder while “bringing him down,” the chief said.

During the fight, Welch fatally shot himself in the head, Knapp said.

Welch was the only one who fired during the frenzy of violence in the small upstate city along the Hudson River.

It all happened in just a few minutes, authorities said. But the shootings capped a history of domestic violence that forced Jessica Welch, 28, to leave her husband a couple of weeks ago.

Lee Welch, of Catskill, had been arrested on Jan. 28 on an assault charge. He bailed out of jail and was arrested again three days later on a charge of violating a court order barring him from seeing his wife, police said.

“Family members felt that the victim was in danger and convinced her to relocate to Mount Vernon,” Knapp said on Saturday.

The Welches had arranged to meet Friday on neutral ground in Poughkeepsie. Lee Welch had been using the couple’s car, and they were exchanging it so Jessica Welch could drive their three children around.

The police chief said investigators believe she arrived by train from White Plains.

Falcone, an 18-year veteran of the force, worked as a patrolman. He was single and lived in Marlboro, about 10 miles south of Poughkeepsie.

A wake for the officer is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cargain Funeral Home in Carmel, police said. A funeral will follow Thursday at St. James the Apostle Church, also in Carmel.

The 3-year-old girl is staying with her mother’s relatives, police said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)