Andrea Rebello shooting: Grief and anger at wake in Tarrytown
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Emotions ranged from grief to rage Tuesday as family and friends attended a wake for 21-year-old Andrea Rebello, the Hofstra University junior from Tarrytown who was accidentally killed by a police officer Friday during a Long Island home invasion.
Matthew Holowko, a Hofstra student from Paramus, N.J., who said he had been friends with Rebello for three years, was visibly angry as he talked about Dalton Smith, the ex-con and parole violator who took Rebello, her twin sister, Jessica, and two others hostage.
Both Smith and Rebello were killed by shots fired by Nikolas Budimlic, a 12-year veteran of the Nassau County police force who responded to the 911 call at Rebello's off-campus house in Uniondale, sources said.
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"It's absurd that this man (Smith) was on the streets," Holowko said, referencing the arrest warrant issued for Smith, 30, in April after he failed to contact his parole officer.
Smith "should have been behind bars," said Holowko as he commiserated with other mourners outside the Coffey Funeral Home in Tarrytown minutes before Rebello's family arrived in a black limousine.
Holowko and Richard Stegner, a fellow Hofstra student from Oceanside, said Rebello was a friend who was there for them, and they wanted "to be there for her family in their time of need."
A contingent of Nassau County police officers offered condolences to Rebello's family, according to a Tarrytown police source, but did not wear their uniforms or publicly identify themselves.
Stegner said he believes his friend may have lived if cops had been more cautious.
"I don't get why the police went into the house," Stegner said. "There should have been professional negotiators."
While Rebello's immediate family have remained quiet, her godfather, Henrique Santos of Eastchester, also has questioned the officer's actions, saying, "If he's professional, he should have tried negotiation."
FELLOW OFFICERS BACK COP '100 PERCENT'
Amid the criticism, members of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association on Tuesday voiced their support for their fellow officer, who fired eight shots at the masked Smith as he held Rebello in a headlock. One of those shots struck Rebello in the head.
"We back his position 100 percent," PBA president James Carver said of Budimlic at a news conference on Long Island. "There's only one person responsible for what happened early Friday and that's the ex-con," he said, referring to Smith.
Budimlic, Carver said, did not know it was a hostage situation when he and other officers responded to the robbery-in-progress call.
Carver called the shooting, "a split-second decision [that] is now being second-guessed and criticized by those who never went to a police academy, never once responded to a call of a man with a gun, putting their lives on the line to protect others."
He said Budimlic, who has been traumatized and is out on sick leave, "sends his thoughts and prayers out to the victim."
'THESE KIDS ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH'
While much anger was expressed outside the funeral home Tuesday, inside the tears flowed.
Nella Freitas Rebello, Andrea's mother, was "inconsolable" and unable to stay in the room where her daughter was laid out for viewing, according to one mourner.
"How can you know what a parent feels especially under these circumstances?" Louis da Silva, a family friend, wondered as he waited on line in front of the funeral home. "They have so much stuff coming at them at so many angles that only with time will they sort out what they are going to do."
Among those paying respects, was Carol Conklin-Spillane, principal of Sleepy Hollow High School, where Andrea and Jessica graduated from. She said her thoughts were with Jessica, who escaped the residence seconds before Smith raised his gun at Budimlic and the officer responded with the fatal gunshots.
"The girls were inseparable," Conklin-Spillane said. "I cannot fathom what Jessica will do."
Roger Bank, who lives across the street from the Rebello family, said: "It's a shame this happened."
Andrea Rebello, who was majoring in public relations at Hofstra, was "pleasant, quiet, respectful," said Tony Baxter, who was her English teacher at Sleepy Hollow High School.
"These kids are the salt of the earth," Baxter said, describing Rebello and her sister.
Rebello's family and friends will say their final goodbyes at a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow. The Rev. Osvaldo Franklin will lead the service before Andrea is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.