Family of Andrea Rebello, Hofstra student fatally shot by police, files wrongful-death lawsuit
The family of a Hofstra student killed in an off-campus police shooting claims the officer who fired the fatal shot "carelessly discharged his pistol," and authorities "recklessly and unnecessarily" endangered her.
The allegations are made in a wrongful-death lawsuit against Nassau County and its police force filed Friday -- one day before the anniversary of Andrea Rebello's death.
Rebello, a 21-year-old junior from Tarrytown, died after a police bullet struck her head on May 17, 2013. Authorities said it happened as an armed intruder used her as a human shield.
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"We believe that if the police had not come to the house that night, our daughter would still be alive," the Rebello family said Friday 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 State Supreme Court suit further alleges that police radio gear wasn't properly maintained, including the device used by the officer who opened fire.
The civil action, which seeks unspecified damages, also claims police illegally detained Rebello's twin Jessica after the incident without reason to believe she had committed a crime.
"They're hoping to have the people responsible for their daughter's death held accountable for what they did," Roth said.
County and police spokesmen declined to comment Friday, citing pending litigation as the reason.
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said the gunman who held the students hostage is the only one to blame for Andrea Rebello's death.
"If it wasn't for his actions, she'd be alive today," Carver said.
After 2 a.m. that day last May, parolee Dalton Smith, 30, of Hempstead, burst into the Uniondale rental home Rebello shared with her sister and two other students, authorities said. Holding them at gunpoint, Smith demanded cash.
Police were called by one of the students after Smith let her leave to get cash from an ATM.
Authorities said Officer Nikolas Budimlic, then an eight-year Nassau police veteran who was among the first responding officers, went inside the house after Jessica Rebello ran out and said the gunman was upstairs.
Budimlic fired eight shots, killing Smith and Rebello, after Smith ignored commands to drop his 9-mm Luger and threatened to kill the officer and the student, according to prosecutors.
An investigation by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office found in April that Budimlic's use of deadly force was justified. It placed the blame for Rebello's death on Smith, who had robbery-related convictions and was wanted on a parole violation.
The Rebellos said after the report's release they were disappointed prosecutors didn't let a grand jury decide if the officer should face criminal prosecution.
The lawsuit specifically names Budimlic as a defendant, describing him as a "cowboy" who had been involved in two previous police shootings.
The suit also singles out former Police Commissioner Thomas Dale, accusing him of inflicting emotional distress by failing to tell the family immediately that an officer had killed Rebello.
According to the suit, Dale continued to withhold the officer's name and didn't tell the family that the department's deadly force response team later cleared that officer of any wrongdoing on the day of the shooting.