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Jury finds 2 Suffolk police officers did not violate civil rights of Selden man

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 federal civil jury Thursday quickly found that two Suffolk police officers did not violate the civil rights of an unarmed Selden man who died after he was shot three times by one of the officers.

The jury of five women and two men found after only three hours of deliberation that Officer Thomas Wilson had not used excessive force in September 2011 in firing three shots that struck Kevin Callahan, then 26. Wilson was responding to a call that there was a person with a gun in Callahan's home.

The jury also found that former Suffolk police Sgt. Scott Greene had not failed to provide proper medical attention to Callahan after he was shot.

Assistant County Attorney Brian Mitchell declined to comment after the verdict in federal district court in Central Islip.

Callahan's brother, Christopher, who brought the case along with Callahan's mother, Patricia, said after that he was "disappointed" in the outcome.

"I understand a cop's job is difficult, but he [Wilson] shot blindly into my brother's room," Christopher Callahan said. "It was excessive force."

Garden City attorney Bruce Barket, who represented the family along with his partner Amy Marion, said he also was "disappointed," and that the Callahan family was considering whether to continue the case in state court, where they have similar civil actions pending.

Mitchell argued in his summation earlier in the day that both officers had acted reasonably.

Wilson thought he was "facing a serious threat of death" when he started to advance into Callahan's bedroom with his gun in front of him, Mitchell said. Mitchell said when the door started to close on Wilson, the officer thought as he opened fire that somebody might be grabbing his gun or might be armed.

As to Greene later failing to immediately enter the room to find Callahan shot, Mitchell said he acted professionally, not knowing what the situation in the room was, whether there might have been one or more gunmen. So he waited until officers trained to treat the wounded from the emergency service unit arrived, Mitchell said.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler barred as too prejudicial the jurors being told Greene faces trial in Suffolk County on criminal hate-crime and other charges for stopping Latinos and stealing cash from them. Greene has pleaded not guilty.

In his remarks to the jury, family attorney Barket said the police officers' defense described the opposite of what should have happened -- with Wilson acting too hastily and Greene acting too slowly. Wilson, he said, "barged" into Callahan's bedroom, without waiting for more help, while Greene acted too slowly in not entering the room and finding Callahan hit with three bullets.

Barket also said Wilson "overreacted" by first firing the two shots that hit Callahan in the back without seeing at whom he was shooting.

And, he said, when Wilson pulled his hand from the door, he fired two more shots, one of which struck Callahan in the abdomen.

No gun was found near Callahan.

The original call to the police about a man with a gun in the Callahan house started with Callahan himself calling to inform his mother, Patricia. She then called Christopher Callahan, who called police.

The jury was not told about the origin of the man-with-a-gun call, nor was it determined why Kevin Callahan would have said that to his mother. When they responded to the Callahan house, neither Wilson nor Greene knew how the call originated.


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