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Trial set to begin in case of Selden man killed by Suffolk police

Kevin Callahan, 26, was killed inside his Selden

Kevin Callahan, 26, was killed inside his Selden home on Sept. 20, 2011, after police responded to a man with a gun call.

A trial is expected to start Monday in federal court in which six Suffolk police officers and the county are accused of violating the civil rights of a 26-year-old Selden man who was shot to death in his home by a Suffolk police officer.

The officer, along with several others, were responding to a 911 call in September 2011 from the brother of Kevin Callahan that there may have been a man with a gun in the house, but no gun was found at the scene after Callahan's death.

Callahan's mother, Patricia, and his brother, Christopher, who made the 911 call, have filed a suit in federal court in Central Islip saying that six officers in the case acted improperly, there was no justification to shoot Kevin Callahan, and that the county has a historic pattern of poorly training the department's personnel.

Kevin Callahan "was shot down by those who we count on to serve and protect," said the Callahans' attorney, Amy Marion of Garden City. "It is not just the shooter here, it is the county police department's blind acceptance of these shootings which continues to put all of our citizens at risk, every day. Until the county is forced to pay for the deaths of innocent victims, they will continue to ignore the lack of training which has caused this senseless and tragic death like so many before."

The suit does not say the amount of damages the Callahans seek.

County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter declined to comment, citing the ongoing case.

The six officers being sued include Thomas Wilson, the officer who fired the three shots that hit Callahan, and retired Sgt. Scott Greene, who recently was criminally charged in an unrelated case with hate crimes and larceny for allegedly stealing from Hispanic motorists and taxi drivers. Greene has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Sources have said that a Suffolk County grand jury cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

A police report on the case said that as Wilson was searching the Callahan house, he had held his gun in front of him as he entered a room in which he saw a man standing sideways.

"Suddenly, the door closed on him, trapping him between the door and doorjamb," the report said. Fearing that his weapon could be taken, Wilson "raised the pistol up to his hip area and fired to stop the male from 'killing me.' "

Marion, the Callahans' attorney, said the police account "defies the laws of physics" because the medical report indicates that based on powder burns, one of the three bullets the officer fired struck Callahan in the back at close range.

Christopher Callahan acknowledged in the suit that he called the police to check out the house because his mother told him that Kevin Callahan had called her and said there was someone else in the house, and Kevin said, "Mom, he's got a gun."

The suit also says his mother left the house and went to a hotel because, although Kevin Callahan had just left Stony Brook University Hospital after treatment for drug abuse, he "still appeared to be under the influence of drugs."

The family has acknowledged that Kevin Callahan was a recovering heroin addict who had served seven months in a Michigan jail on a larceny charge.

But in the suit, Christopher Callahan said that in his 911 call, "he did not think there was a real emergency and a real threat," explaining that his brother had lied in such situations in the past and "asked that a police car drive by the house just to check that everything was OK."

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