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Family of N.Y. Student Killed in Hostage Incident Sues Officer, Agency

May 19, 2014  | 

Andrea Rebello (Photo: Instagram)
Andrea Rebello (Photo: Instagram)

The family of a Hofstra University student who was killed during a hostage incident last May is suing the officer who fired the fatal shot, the department that employed him, and Nassau County, N.Y.

Andrea Rebello, 21, was killed when Officer Nikolas Budimlic of the Nassau County Police Department fired upon a man who had taken her hostage in an off-campus apartment. The hostage taker, Dalton Smith, 30, was also killed. Smith had convictions for robbery and was wanted for a parole violation.

The wrongful death lawsuit claims the officer "carelessly discharged" his firearm during the incident, the Associated Press reports. The suit also accuses the department of negligence and says Budimlic acted "recklessly and unnecessarily" when he fired eight shots at Smith who was using Rebello as a shield.

"We believe that if the police had not come to the house that night, our daughter would still be alive," the Rebello family told Newsday through their Manhattan attorney David Roth.

The lawsuit accuses the police department of failing to properly train officers and communications operators on how to handle hostage situations, and of inadequate supervision during such incidents.

According to the suit, the county and police are also negligent for a history of finding that "every police-involved shooting was justified" and never disciplining officers who are involved in deadly shootings.

The District Attorney has ruled the shooting justified.

Police Benevolent Association president James Carver told Newsday the gunman who held the students hostage is the only one to blame for Andrea Rebello's death.

 

Related: 

Police Union Defends N.Y. Officer In Rebello Shooting

N.Y. Cop 'Torn Up' Over Hostage's Death

Tags: Nassau County (N.Y.) PD, Hostage Situations, Officer Involved Shootings, Lawsuits


Comments (15)

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15

Lawdog @ 5/19/2014 2:58 PM

You can't possibly back this officer!! He shot 8 times at a person holding someone hostage. Was he was sniper, was he S.W.A.T. trained? They are only calling it justified because they don't want to pay out of the ass for that officer firing his weapon that many times. What do you think?

AJ @ 5/19/2014 3:18 PM

"We believe that if the police had not come to the house that night, our daughter would still be alive,"

Yes being taken hostage by a gun wielding maniac would have ended so well for her. It's a tragic loss but we need more facts. SWAT trained or not is irrelevant. It's first responders that do the heavy lifting. SWAT deals with barricades on their time table.

The average SWAT engagement is 30 heavily armed and armored men with automatic rifles, sniper rifles, sub guns and a tank or two against what is usually one barricaded subject, sometimes with hostages. I love my SWAT guys but there is nothing elite about their odds. The reality is that it is far more dangerous to be a motor officer. SWAT has it's role and we need them for it but Hollywood and the media would have us believe that they can walk on water and bend bullet trajectories. Violence is hard, fast, up close, nasty and personal. More facts are needed.

krisnlc @ 5/19/2014 3:36 PM

I think more detailed information is still needed for us to better asses this circumstance. With the information available to me right now, I wonder why this officer would fire 8 times at this person holding a hostage as a shield. Were the shots in rapid succession? Were the 8 shots fired one at a time, and targeted? What prompted the officer to shoot? Why would the officer shoot 8 times at t his target? What did the officer say about the target? Was SWAT already in position? Was the situation escalating right then and there or was it diffusing and the perp. barricaded?
At first reading my inclination was to say WHAT IN THE *BLEEP* WAS THIS OFFICER THINKING AND DOING? More information is needed in order to give a good opinion.

Carlos @ 5/19/2014 3:44 PM

IMHO, the question is if the Officer fired because there was an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm? It seems that yes, he was fully justified in firing based on the following statement (from another article):

"Smith pointed the gun at Rebello's head and repeatedly threatened to kill her. He then pointed the gun at the officer."

Mike @ 5/19/2014 4:26 PM

Lots of Macho cops on this board yelping about SWAT training and Sniper training and what their know it all selfs would do... But here's the real and only answer ...........The ONLY person to blame is the DEAD SUSPECT.

LawDog @ 5/19/2014 5:10 PM

It isn't about placing blame or being the so called macho cop Mike, when you encounter a situation like that you call it in, secure the scene, & WAIT for those with better equipment & training to show up. You DO NOT fire 8 rounds knowing that the suspect has a hostage!! Even if he has a gun pointed at you, you back off unless being fired upon. & even then you still shouldn't return fire because of the hostage. No one is claiming to know it all Mike, however I'm curious as to how you would have handles the situation?

Lew @ 5/19/2014 7:09 PM

This was a panic shooting. Not all humans-the good and bad-are capable of handling stressful circumstances, and fear over rides critical thinking controlled by the frontal lobes. We do not pretest people to determine their ability to handle danger. Fight or Flight--it is a response untested, and being in a dangerous situation is not the time to discover how someone will react under the threat of death. This human should not have been armed, nor employed in law enforcement. He was not hard wired for combat. And most likely he knew it. Fears are not new discoveries, but they are often ignored with hopes they will never be discovered by ones peers. No, the blame does not belong to the suspect for this particular outcome. Any person who assumes they can control an armed-hostage-taking-irrational human single-handedly with a handgun or shouting demands is simply not clever enough or trained enough to do police work. And the department's policies and procedures are an obvious weakness.

Trigger @ 5/19/2014 7:43 PM

In a perfect world we could call in all of the high end asserts if those are available, however in many parts of the US they are not. The responding officer(s) have to make the call on how the situation will be handled. It is easy to sit back an "armchair" this, WE were not there. Officer Budilmic is probably living a nightmare that none of us would want. Learning from this situation and others will benefit us all. But please not pass judgement on the officer, it could have been any of us.

Michael @ 5/19/2014 8:09 PM

As Cops, SWAT or not, we have to operate on a" Priority of Life" scale. Hostage,Innocent Bystandards, Law Enforcement, Suspect. It doesnt matter if the suspect pointed a gun at the Officer or not. The Hostage is the #1 priority. It is a tragedy for the family of the hostage as well as the Officers involved.

Wire Paladin @ 5/20/2014 1:34 AM

Lawdog, I am positive that you either are not law enforcement or have never been involved in a very fluid, violent deadly force situation. From the investigation I have reviewed, this was a fast breaking event and SWAT would have not been able to respond. The first rule in a hostage situation is NEVER let the hostage taker leave with the victim. I am positive that if the officer would have allowed the suspect to take the victim, it would have been a horrible death for her. The officer did not have massive amounts of back up as you suggest he did. This is a terrible no win situation and the officer must also take into account the likely possibility that if the suspect were to get away, that more civilian and officers lives would be in jeopardy. What happens if he gets to a car and flees only later to plow into a car full of kids? or takes others hostage later. This is a sad situation, but if that were my wife or daughter I would rather them die there than be raped, tortured and murdered

plato's playdough @ 5/20/2014 2:42 AM

Picture of the gunman shot, worth a thousand words, can be found by searching "gunman Dalton Smith."

Reference this article at http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/hofstra-gunman-identified-thug-wanted-parole-violation-article-1.1347916

Reference the New York Times article after the event at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/nyregion/in-decision-to-enter-home-near-hofstr

As I recall, the standard issue weapon for this department was a Glock 17 with a NY-2 trigger. Perhaps my recollection is in error.

Obviously a tragic event, but I could not help but note that this was a robbery in progress, and one article does say that the first responders did not know there was a hostage until they were already in the dwelling. If I remember correctly, all shots fired but ONE hit the bad guy, and that speaks to TRAINING.

I wonder if during the lawsuit, it will come up that he HAD VIOLATED PAROLE. How it could've happened that a repeat offender is PAROLED? Not likely to be talked down, eh?

offdutydeputy @ 5/20/2014 10:01 AM

@ LawDog. Please tell me you aren't working the streets?? Ask how you can back this Officer then ask about his training? Shouldn't you know the facts to include his training before you make a decision to back him or not? You don't shoot even if he has a gun pointed at you unless being fired upon?? That is a very ignorant, uneducated and untrained comment.

As already said, the suspect is to blame. Any other argument about woulda, shoulda, coulda is pointless.

It's extremely sad an innocent person had to die.

offdutydeputy @ 5/20/2014 10:01 AM

@ LawDog. Please tell me you aren't working the streets?? Ask how you can back this Officer then ask about his training? Shouldn't you know the facts to include his training before you make a decision to back him or not? You don't shoot even if he has a gun pointed at you unless being fired upon?? That is a very ignorant, uneducated and untrained comment.

As already said, the suspect is to blame. Any other argument about woulda, shoulda, coulda is pointless.

It's extremely sad an innocent person had to die.

offdutydeputy @ 5/20/2014 10:26 AM

After reading the news article (assuming it's accurate), the tactical error was to have two Officer's respond and start banging on the door. A victim was allowed to leave the home and go to the bank to get money then called 911. If and I stress IF that victim gave dispatch and accurate account, the Officers should've covered the house until more units arrived. Once the house was covered, a phone call or use of PA to contact someone inside should've been made. This is my departments policy on a situation like this. Once again, it's easy to second guess someone in a life or death situation from the comfort of my couch.

7 of 8 shots hit the suspect. Statistics will show that is amazingly accurate under stress. Very unfortunate the 8th hit where it did.

As sad as this is, when will this country realize how ineffective our justice system is? For those of us on the job, we know this type of violence is on the rise and there are no signs of it getting better.

Carlos @ 5/21/2014 10:10 AM

@LawDog - you're full of it. Your mentality is exactly why there were so many unnecessary deaths during the Columbine incident and others like it. How long does it take for SWAT to respond in your jurisdiction (assuming you're even a LEO)? You're stuck in the pre-Active Shooter times where SWAT is supposed to handle everything and the First Responders are only supposed to secure the scene until they get there. What a bunch of crap!

And even if the responding Officer did follow the screwed up SOP you quoted above. So who gets blamed if the hostage taker decides to blow his hostage's head off before committing suicide himself; maybe after he takes a shot at someone else? I'd wager to bet that you and those like you would blame the responding Officer for not taking the shot, wouldn't you?

Based on the facts available, this Officer did the best he could under the circumstances. I can't really fault him for this tragedy that he is probably going to relive for the rest of his life.

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