A Hofstra University senior whose girlfriend was killed by a police bullet during an off-campus hostage standoff in May says he's no longer willing to cooperate with the investigation into her death because he and his lawyer believe police are trying to make him a "scapegoat."Bradley Wilson, 22, of upstate Middletown, said in his first extensive interview since Andrea Rebello's death that he stopped speaking to Nassau police after officers were aggressive and accusatory in the hours following her death even though he hadn't been there when the shooting happened and had no connection at all to the case.
Nassau police have said that on May 17, ex-convict Dalton Smith walked through an unlocked door into the rental home on California Avenue in Uniondale where Rebello lived with her sister and two other students and demanded money and jewelry.
Smith ordered a female resident to leave and withdraw cash from a bank, and said he would kill someone in the home if she did not return within eight minutes, police said. While at the bank, the woman called 911.
Officer Nikolas Budimlic, a 12-year veteran of the Nassau police force, entered the home and fired eight rounds after confronting Smith, 30, as the Hempstead man held Rebello, 21, in a chokehold, police said. Bullets from his gun killed both Smith and Rebello, police have said.
"When they were questioning me they seemed like they were very angry or something -- like they were trying to make a connection between me and the guy [who took her hostage]. They said, 'Do you know of anything bad that goes on here? Do you know anything about drugs, or do you do drugs?' And I don't." They tried to question him again at Rebello's wake, he said, but he avoided them.
Wilson said he believes that police would like to muddy Rebello's name and his to make it appear that they brought the tragedy on themselves.
"The way they were acting just didn't seem like it was the right way to go about it, especially after I found out it was the cop who shot her," he said.
Nassau police spokesman Insp. Kenneth Lack declined to comment on the case and Wilson's allegations, saying it is an ongoing investigation.
Sister at odds with police
Andrea Rebello's twin sister, Jessica, also is critical of police actions. She filed legal papers last week saying she was wrongfully detained, "harassed, abused and humiliated" by police officers at the scene in the hours after her sister was killed.
David Roth, a Manhattan lawyer for Rebello's family, said in a July 29 letter to Nassau police that a detective had refused to return Andrea Rebello's cellphone and jewelry to her family until they put pressure on Wilson to come in for an interview. Police returned the property this week though Wilson still has not spoken to them, Roth said.
In the interview, Wilson said he loved Rebello and that the two had hoped to find jobs and live together after graduation. He said news accounts seem to portray Andrea as a party girl. But he said she was a reserved person who didn't open up until she knew a person well.
Wilson said just 10 months before Andrea was killed, his younger sister, Cassandra, 16, fell to her death from a cliff while hiking along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. He said Andrea, whom he had been dating since February 2011, was one of the few people who was able to help him through his grief.
"She was a good girl," he said of Rebello, a public relations major. "She was very focused on school. She was always in the library."
The night Andrea was killed, he and she had been at a local bar with a group of other students. She left before he did, but they met back at her place around 1 a.m., Wilson said. They were together for a few minutes, then he left to go back to his house a block away on Lenox Avenue and she left to go to 7-Eleven to buy some candy, he said.
He texted her a while later, and when she didn't respond he assumed she had gone to sleep and went to bed himself, he said.
The next thing he knew a friend called him at 6 a.m. saying there were police and crime scene tape surrounding Andrea's house, Wilson said.
At first, police gave Wilson incorrect information about how many residents of the house had been shot, he said. Then after they questioned him, they clarified it was Andrea who was dead. "I walked away from the house crying," he said. "All I knew was that there was a robbery in the house and she had been shot."
Family suit pending
Last week, Rebello's family filed legal papers announcing that they will sue Nassau County, saying police were "negligent . . . in failing to follow Nassau County police hostage protocols" and "failing to act as reasonable and prudent police officers and / or police supervisors under the circumstances."
Donald Rollock, a Mineola lawyer representing Wilson, sent a letter to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice on May 20 complaining about police behavior toward his client and warning that police and prosecutors should not approach Wilson when he is not present. They have not contacted Wilson since, he said.
In the letter to Rice, Rollock said a detective on the case had told him, "Your client does not have a right to counsel, and I will speak with him when I feel like it."A spokesman for Rice confirmed that they did receive the letter, and that authorities have not contacted Wilson since.
Referring to Budimlic, Rollock said, "This police officer obviously messed up, and his actions caused the loss of this young lady. Now they're looking for a scapegoat."