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Kin to file suit vs. cops in fatal shooting

Kevin Callahan's mother Patricia Callahan and his brothers

Kevin Callahan's mother Patricia Callahan and his brothers (L/R) Matthew Callahan, James Schanley and Christopher Callahan photographed at their attorney's office in Garden City. (May 17, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The family of a Selden man killed by police last year will file a federal lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department Thursday, alleging officers used excessive force after illegally entering his home.

Kevin Callahan, 26, was fatally shot in his home on Sept. 20 after police responded to a call of a man with a gun.

The family's attorney, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, will announce Thursday the filing of a wrongful-death suit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

The family said they had called police because they were worried about Callahan, who had been acting erratically on the phone with his mother.

"That [the shooting] was completely unjustified," Barket said. "Kevin didn't have a gun. He didn't attack the police officers. The police officer's life wasn't in jeopardy. Kevin was shot and killed in his own home in broad daylight."

Police declined to comment on the matter and referred all questions to the Suffolk County district attorney's office.

District Attorney Thomas Spota declined to comment.

But sources familiar with the incident said a grand jury in January investigated the circumstances surrounding Callahan's death and decided not to indict the officer who fatally shot him.

In September, police issued a statement saying Callahan was shot sometime after officers arrived at his Franklin Avenue home about 12:35 p.m.

At the time, it was not known if investigators had found a gun in the home or if Callahan had been the subject of the call.

His family says they were led to believe Callahan was alive hours after he was shot dead. They also say that after the shooting they were forced to go to the Sixth Precinct to give statements. They say Callahan, who was living with his mother, Patricia, at the time, was unarmed and that they had placed the 911 call after he told his mother, who was not at home, there was a man with a gun in the house.

Barket said the conduct of police after the shooting and the delay in giving the family information on what happened the afternoon of Sept. 20 calls into question the legitimacy of the grand jury presentation. "It really makes me wonder about anything that came out of that investigation and how they behaved early on," Barket said.

According to a four-page Suffolk County Police Department Continuation Report, three officers from the Sixth Precinct responded to the call. They reported that they entered the home though an open front door after several failed verbal attempts to make contact with someone inside.

When they entered, one of the officers reported he saw "a cleaver and a pill bottle on the table" and that "he thought there might be someone armed and on drugs within the home."

That officer was one of two who proceeded to clear the house's basement, the report says. He saw "a male standing sideways" through the crack of a door to a room on his right and, according to the documents, he shouted "Police, don't move." The report said the officer held a flashlight and a firearm as he entered the room. "Suddenly, the door closed on him trapping him between the door and doorjamb. He dropped his flashlight and his pistol was exposed inside the room where the subject was located." The officer reported that he feared his weapon could be taken so "he raised the pistol up to his hip area and fired to stop the male from 'killing me.' "

Callahan's family say he was shot through his bedroom door with the officer never having laid eyes on him. After Callahan was shot, he was handcuffed while he lay on the floor bleeding, the lawsuit says.

Callahan, his family said, was a recovering heroin addict who had served seven months in a Michigan jail on a felony charge of larceny.

"Oh yes, he was troubled," Patricia Callahan said. On Sept. 20, she said in a statement to police, she thought Callahan "seemed messed up again," so she asked another son, Christopher, 29, to call police.

"Bottom line," Christopher Callahan said, "is that if I never called police that day, [we] wouldn't be in this situation right now."

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