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Andrea Rebello family to sue Nassau cops for wrongful death, court papers say

Left: Hofstra University students mourn Andrea Rebello during

Left: Hofstra University students mourn Andrea Rebello during a vigil held May 18, 2013 at the Hempstead school. Right: Hofstra University junior Andrea Rebello, 21, was killed during an armed home invasion at an off-campus residence in Uniondale. This photo is from her blog, Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein / Handout

The family of Hofstra student Andrea Rebello intends to sue the Nassau County police over the fatal shooting of the 21-year-old Tarrytown woman as she was held at gunpoint by an ex-convict during a home invasion last month on Long Island, according to court papers.

Nella Freitas Rebello, the mother of the college junior, was appointed June 6 by the Westchester County Surrogate's Court as the administrator of her daughter's estate to pursue the lawsuit.

The "cause of action" for the suit cites "wrongful death, civil rights and negligence actions against the County of Nassau and its police officers and possibly other defendants to be named after discovery," lawyers for the family wrote in court papers filed in Surrogate's Court in White Plains.

The family has hired lawyers Byron Lassin of Queens and David Roth of Manhattan to represent them. Lassin and Roth declined to comment Tuesday, saying they wanted to talk to the Rebello family before issuing any statement.

A spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department, which has been conducting an internal investigation of the May 17 shooting, said the department's investigation of the shooting was not completed yet.

"It's an ongoing investigation by the homicide division," Police Spokesman Kenneth Lack said. He declined to comment on the Rebellos' intention to sue the department.

Nassau County Police Officer Nikolas Budimlic accidentally shot and killed Andrea Rebello, a public relations major, as parolee Dalton Smith, 30, held her in a chokehold during the robbery about 2:30 a.m.

Police said Budimlic fired eight shots after Smith pointed a handgun at him while using Rebello as a human shield. Smith, who lived in Hempstead, also was killed.

Smith entered the unlocked rented home on California Avenue in Uniondale that Rebello shared with three others -- including her twin sister, Jessica -- to rob them, officials said. He demanded jewelry and money before ordering a female resident to go to an ATM and withdraw money. Smith told the woman he would kill someone in the house if she didn't return in eight minutes, police said. The woman called 911 from the bank and alerted police.

Budimlic did not know he was walking into a hostage situation when he responded to the call, James Carver, head of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said after the incident. The 911 call was "never transmitted as a hostage situation," and Budimlic believed he was responding to a robbery in progress, Carver said, blaming Smith for Rebello's death.

Rebello's family, however, criticized Budimlic's actions.

"I think the police is not very professional," Rebello's uncle Henrique Santos said after the shooting. "If he's professional, he should have tried negotiation."

Budimlic, a 12-year veteran of the force who previously spent eight years with the New York City Police Department, was treated for trauma after the shooting and remains on sick leave.

Smith had an extensive criminal record, including several robbery arrests dating to 1999, police said. A warrant was issued for Smith in April for violating parole, police said.

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