Nassau's police union president blamed the armed parolee for a Hofstra student's death and fiercely defended the officer Tuesday who shot and killed the 21-year-old woman and the gunman as he held her in a chokehold.
The officer, identified by sources as Nikolas Budimlic, shot and killed Andrea Rebello and ex-convict Dalton Smith after, police said, the parolee pointed his gun at the officer inside a Uniondale home Friday.
"We back his decision 100 percent," James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said at a news conference in Mineola. "There's only one person responsible for what happened early Friday and that's the ex-con."
The officer was treated for trauma at a hospital after the shooting and remains on sick leave, Carver said.
"There's some second-guessing going on by people who think maybe he should have stayed outside the house, but our job is to get inside there and make sure we can protect as many people as we can," Carver said.
The officer fired eight rounds after confronting Smith, 30, as the Hempstead man held Rebello in a chokehold, police said. Smith walked through an unlocked door into the rented home Rebello shared with her twin sister and two others, police said, and demanded money and jewelry. He ordered a female resident to withdraw cash from a bank.
Smith told her he would kill someone in the home if she didn't return within eight minutes, police said. While at the bank, the woman called 911.
Carver said the call was "never transmitted as a hostage situation" and that the officer believed he was responding to a robbery in progress at the California Avenue home close to Hofstra University.
The Nassau Police Department has refused Newsday's requests for copy of the 911 telephone call and an outline of the department's procedures in a hostage situation -- procedures in a guide the department says is not public record.
Similar procedural manuals for other departments, including Suffolk police, state that an officer facing a hostage situation should call for negotiators, confine the perpetrator and "maintain firearms discipline."
Nassau police said Tuesday their use of force procedure follows Article 35 of the New York State penal law. The law allows a police or peace officer to use deadly force when the officer "reasonably believes such to be necessary for self-defense" or to defend a third person from what "he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force."
Police said the proximity between Smith and the responding officer was less than 10 feet when Smith pointed a 9-mm handgun at him.
"Of course, cover and concealment is taught, but sometimes there are none to be had," Nassau police spokesman Kenneth Lack said in a statement. "Training cannot cover every aspect of a dynamic, fluid situation that police officers face."
In an audiotape from a police radio transmission alerting officers of the situation, responding officers are told the perpetrator is armed with a gun and is in an upstairs bedroom with the 911 caller's friend.
"Headquarters, where's the subject, with the complainant or at the house?" an unidentified male voice asks in response.
"We're trying to ascertain that now," the female Nassau police operator answers. Seconds later the woman adds that "the subject is in the house. He's in the top right bedroom with the complainant's friend. The subject has a silver handgun."
Two minutes after police were sent to the house, a male voice is heard on the scanner alerting officers racing to the scene that "there are hostages" there, according to the audiotape. On Tuesday, Lack said that "it does not appear" the officer knew hostages were inside when he knocked on the front door.
Police said Andrea Rebello's twin sister opened the door and screamed "he's got a gun" before escaping.
Carver, the local PBA president, said the officer "did the right thing in there."
Carver said he did not think the officer had ever fired his weapon in the line of duty before -- and agreed with his decision not to wait for backup.
"When you respond to a call you don't wait around the block for your backup to come," Carver said. "He deemed it was not appropriate to wait. If he had waited, we don't know what damage could have been done."
With William Murphy
and Tania Lopez