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78-year-old convicted cop killer’s execution set for Thursday

Houston Police (Jason Lawrence/Flickr)
April 21, 2022

Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, who was convicted of killing Houston police officer James Irby over 30 years ago, is set to be executed in Huntsville on Thursday. He is the oldest death row inmate in Texas.

According to Click 2 Houston, during the summer of 1990, Irby pulled over a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. Buntion was in the passenger seat, and after Irby asked the driver to step out of the car, Buntion pulled out a gun and shot the officer once in the head and then twice more in the back.

“I was always prepared for him to get hurt on his motorcycle, I wasn’t prepared for him to be shot down in cold-blood,” Jame’s wife, Maura Irby, said at the time.

Buntion continued shooting at other people passing by the scene until he fled into a warehouse where he was ultimately apprehended.

In 1991, Buntion was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Prior to the shooting, Buntion had been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl, but only served 13 months of a 15-year sentence due to prison overcrowding.  

For years, Buntion has claimed he acted in self-defense in the shooting of Irby. In 2009, Buntion told KPRC that there “was no doubt in my mind he was fixing to shoot me.”

“At the end of the day, I know it was justified,” Buntion said.

One witness at the trial testified that the officer never took his gun out of its holster.  

“There was absolutely no evidence ever presented that Irby was threatening his life. Irby was making a traffic stop. Buntion was in violation of his parole and was afraid he might get sent back to prison,” said reporter Phil Archer, who covered the trial.

Houston Crime Stoppers victim’s rights advocate Andy Kahan – who served as a parole officer in the 90s – said he believes Buntion panicked when the pair got pulled over because he had violated his parole.

“The sad thing about Irby’s murder is it didn’t have to happen, it shouldn’t have happened. There was no reason except Buntion got scared,” said Archer.

Kahan said he left this work as a parole officer and became a victim’s rights advocate to push for better supervision of parolees.

Buntion’s lengthy time on death row is the result of a successful appeal during which he claimed the jury was not allowed to hear evidence of an abusive childhood. However, in 2012 during a retrial, a second jury also sentenced the cop killer to death.

“I hope, finally, they get what they truly need, and that’s the end of Buntion,” Kahan said, referring to Irby’s widow and children.