Andrea Rebello, slain Tarrytown student, remembered by priest, Westchester's Portuguese community

Students wore white ribbons and observed a moment of silence during their graduation ceremony in honor of 21-year-old junior Andrea Rebello.

The reverend who gave Andrea Rebello her first Communion said Sunday the family of the 21-year-old Tarrytown resident and Hofstra University student killed in a police standoff two days earlier was distraught but finding solace in their faith.

"The family is devastated," said the Rev. Osvaldo Franklin of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Yonkers. "They are very sad, but they have their faith. I will be with them today to help pray for them so God could console them. We have a very big devotion to Fatima. She will help the family."

Rebello's identical twin sister, Jessica, was especially shaken up, Franklin said. Jessica Rebello lived with her sister and was in the Uniondale house where a Nassau County police officer accidentally shot Rebello while a gunman used the junior as a shield during a robbery.


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Natalie Santos, Rebello's godmother, said Jessica is "trying to hang in. She has her friends."

When asked about her reaction upon learning Rebello was killed by a police officer's bullet, Santos said: "All that matters is she's gone."

The two girls used to help with the altar service when Franklin delivered sermons regularly at their church, St. Teresa of Avila in Sleepy Hollow. "They are so united together," Franklin said.

Police were responding to a 911 call at Rebello's house a block from the university when the incident occurred. A Nassau County police officer with 12 years on the force shot the junior while he was firing at the intruder, police said.

The robbery suspect, identified as Dalton Smith, 30, of Hempstead, also was slain. He was wanted for violating parole and had an extensive criminal history, police said.

MOURNED IN WESTCHESTER

About 100 parishioners gathered Sunday evening at St. Teresa for a Portuguese-language service during which Franklin made several mentions of Rebello and her family. It was a Mass that the Rebellos regularly attended.

Parishioners bowed their heads, some crying softly during the service.

They had been asked by Franklin to keep the Rebellos in their prayers, Susanna Ribeiro, 37, of Sleepy Hollow, said afterward.

"It's a small community where everybody knows everybody," Ribeiro said. "It's really, really sad."

Ribeiro's son, Tony, 12, said that during the service Franklin noted that Andrea Rebello had grown up in the church. Her funeral is scheduled to be held there Wednesday.

Franklin said he planned to visit the Rebellos at their home after the Mass to pay his respects.

Parishioner Angela Pereira, of Tarrytown, said the local Portuguese community would do what they can to help the Rebellos.

"We hope that the unity can serve as a sort of consolation for the family, to know they're not alone in grief," Pereira said.

FELLOW STUDENTS REMEMBER

The grief Sunday extended to Hofstra University's graduation ceremony, where students observed a moment of silence to honor Rebello, a public relations major.

More than 4,000 audience members gathered in the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Center. They and some 700 graduates remained standing after the procession as university President Stuart Rabinowitz offered condolences and expressed the school's "collective grief" over Rebello's death.

Graduates pinned white ribbons to their royal blue gowns in memory of Rebello.

Parents and relatives, some of whom traveled across the country to attend the graduation, noted the bittersweet end to the academic year, as they snapped photos and gave congratulatory hugs and kisses.

"It is hard," said Regina Liantonio, of Miller Place, who received a bachelor's degree in audiology. "It is what is on everybody's mind. I think the university is doing a good job of making sure we mourn and remember Andrea while celebrating our own achievements."

Rebello shared the off-campus rental home with three other Hofstra students, including her sister.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale offered "my most sincere and heartfelt condolences" to Rebello's family. He went to Tarrytown Saturday with detectives to deliver the results of the investigation to the student's family before making them public at a Saturday night news conference.

The gunman barged into the Uniondale house at about 2:20 a.m. Friday after one of the residents left the door open before going upstairs to get his keys to move his car, said a grim-faced Det. Lt. John Azzata, commanding officer of the homicide squad, as he detailed the events.

"It appears to be a crime of opportunity," Azzata said.

The robber, wearing a ski mask, demanded money and jewelry, taking the four students hostage, police said. Not satisfied with what they collected from their bedrooms and handed over, he ordered one of them, a woman, to go to a bank ATM and "get the money," warning that if she was not back in eight minutes, he would kill a hostage, Azzata said. She got into her car and called 911.

When police arrived, Jessica, whom Smith sent to answer the door and tell them all was well, screamed "he's got a gun" and escaped, police said said.

A second arriving officer saw hostages with the gunman as the first officer took cover. The male hostage who had been pushed down the stairs at gunpoint, fell, hid behind a sofa and screamed, "The police are here," authorities said.

Smith had Rebello in a headlock in front of him while he was backing up with the gun pointed at her head, police said, adding that Smith was headed toward the back door.

"When he realizes there is a police officer behind a wall in the hallway, he now moves her even closer to the front of his body . . . Eventually, he points the gun at the police officer. At that point, the police officer fires several rounds," Azzata said.

When the shooting occurred, officers from the emergency services unit and the Bureau of Special Operations, who were called because of the hostage situation, were still en route to the scene.

NO SERIAL NUMBER ON GUN

According to the police timeline, the shooting occurred six minutes after police were initially dispatched.

Dale said the officer involved in the shooting, who worked seven or eight years for the NYPD before joining the Nassau police, is out sick and will be monitored and receive counseling. An internal investigation will also be conducted, he said.

Smith's criminal record included several robbery arrests dating to 1999, when he was a teenager. A warrant was issued for Smith on April 25 for violating parole requirements. He was identified through a fingerprint analysis, police said.

Smith's gun -- an SCCY Industries 9-mm -- had one bullet in the chamber and one in the magazine, police officials said. It was not fired. Because the serial number was defaced, its origin was not known.

A wake will be held for Rebello from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Coffey Funeral Home, 91 N. Broadway in Tarrytown. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Teresa's at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and interment will follow at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

With Zachary Dowdy, Robert Brodsky, Aisha Al-Muslim and Keith Herbert

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