Cops: Hofstra student Andrea Rebello, armed suspect Dalton Smith fatally shot by officer
The Hofstra University junior killed in a home invasion was accidentally shot by a police officer who felt his own life was threatened by the armed robber, Nassau County police officials said Saturday night.
Police identified the robber, also shot dead by the officer, as Dalton Smith, 30, of Hempstead, an ex-convict with an extensive criminal history wanted for violating parole.
The Nassau County officer, a 12-year veteran whose identity was withheld, fired eight rounds. Seven struck Smith and one hit Andrea Rebello, 21, in the head. Rebello, of Tarrytown, shared the off-campus rental home with three other Hofstra students, including her identical twin sister, Jessica.
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Commissioner Thomas Dale offered "my most sincere and heartfelt condolences" to Rebello's family. He went to Westchester County on Saturday with detectives to tell the student's family what the investigation found before disclosing the tragic turn of events last night during a news conference.
A man who came to the door at the family's home Saturday night had no comment. The sisters' parents declined to comment earlier in the day.
Smith barged into the Uniondale house, about a block south of campus, 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 four students hostage. 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.
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."
Smith had Rebello in a headlock in front of him while he was backing up with the gun pointed at her head. He 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.
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 original was not known.
Rebello's death saddened the campus community over graduation weekend. A vigil organized by Rebello's friends was held on campus Saturday night, and the university ordered white ribbons for students to wear during commencement ceremonies Sunday.
A group of seven young women and one man returned to the California Avenue home late Saturday afternoon. They exited 15 minutes later, declining to comment and carrying black garbage bags and stuffed animals.
Many wore black T-shirts with Rebello's name surrounded by angel wings. Some cried as they entered the home or sobbed in their car.
Saturday night, with flags on campus at half-staff, about 200 students and some staff members gathered at the silent vigil. Many held lit candles, flower bouquets, and balloons as they surrounded a large photo of Rebello displayed in front of the campus' Hofstra Hall.
A student sang "Ave Maria."
In Tarrytown, a stream of neighbors and friends parked outside the Rebello home throughout the day, some dropping off groceries and others delivering flowers.
A wake will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Coffey Funeral Home, 91 N. Broadway, Tarrytown. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and interment will follow at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
With Zachary Dowdy, Robert Brodsky, Aisha Al-Muslim and Keith Herbert
Sequence of events in the Uniondale home invasion, according to Nassau police:
Friday, 2:20 a.m. In a rental home on California Avenue occupied by Hofstra students, the front door is left open because one of the residents needed to move his car to comply with parking restrictions. He goes upstairs for his keys.
Dalton Smith enters through the open door on the first floor. He orders two females who were downstairs to sit on the sofa; when the male student returns from getting his keys, he is ordered to join them. It is unclear from a transcript of the Nassau County police news conference where a third female hostage was.
Smith asks for money, jewelry and other valuables, which the students say are located upstairs. As the students search for valuables, he asks if anyone has access to a bank account. One student says she has money in a bank account but has to withdraw it. Smith tells her she has eight minutes to return or he will kill one of the hostages.
2:25 a.m. One of the hostages leaves for the bank by car and calls 911.
2:29 a.m. Police are dispatched. The hostage who left for the bank does not return to the house. As this is happening, the remaining hostages are still gathering up their valuables for the intruder.
First Precinct officers arrive, but Smith instructs one of the hostages, Jessica Rebello, to tell police all is well at the house. She exits the house screaming, "He's got a gun." The cops enter the home, believing there is just a gunman upstairs.
The second officer who enters the home sees a male hostage with the gunman. The first officer takes cover. The male hostage who had been forced down the stairs hides behind a sofa and screams: "The police are here."
Smith has the last remaining hostage, Andrea Rebello, in a headlock with a gun pointed at her head. Smith brings the victim downstairs, looking for a rear door. When he sees an officer, he moves the victim even closer to his body.
Smith points his gun at the officer, who fires eight rounds. Seven strike Smith, one strikes Andrea Rebello in the head.