A Hofstra University student being held in a headlock at gunpoint by an intruder was accidently shot and killed by a police officer who had responded to the home invasion at an off-campus home, police said Saturday.
Junior public relations major Andrea Rebello was shot once in the head early Friday morning by an officer who opened fire after the masked intruder pointed a gun at the officer while holding the 21-year-old student, Nassau County homicide squad Lt. John Azzata said.
In a tense confrontation with the officer, gunman Dalton Smith “menaces our police officer, points his gun at the police officer,” Azzata said. The officer opened fire, killing Smith and his hostage.
Azzata said the Nassau County police officer fired eight shots at Smith, who police described as having an “extensive” criminal background. Smith was hit seven times and died. Rebello was shot once in the head.
“He kept saying, ‘I’m going to kill her,’ and then he pointed the gun at the police officer,” Azzata said.
The veteran police officer, who was not identified, has about 12 years of experience on the Nassau County police force and previously spent several years as a New York City police officer, Dale said.
The officer is currently out on sick leave. He will be the focus of an internal police investigation once the criminal investigation is completed, which is standard police procedure in any officer-involved shooting, the commissioner said.
Earlier Saturday, police announced that Smith, 30, had been wanted on a parole violation related to a first-degree robbery conviction and had an arrest history dating back nearly 15 years.
Rebello was in the two-story home with her twin sister Jessica, a third woman and a man when Smith, wearing a ski mask, walked into the house through an open front door, Azzata said. Smith demanded valuables and was told they were upstairs, Azzata said.
Smith, apparently unsatisfied with the valuables upstairs, asked if any of the four had a bank account and could withdraw money, Azzata said. The intruder then allowed the unidentified woman to leave and collect money from an ATM, telling her she had only eight minutes to come back with cash before he killed one of her friends, Azzata said.
The woman left for the bank and called 911, according to Azzata.
Minutes later, two police officers arrived at the home and found Rebello’s twin sister Jessica running out of the front door and the male guest hiding behind a couch on the first floor, Azzata said.
One of the officers entered the home and encountered Smith holding onto Rebello in a headlock, coming down the stairs, Azzata said. Smith pulled Rebello closer and started moving backward toward a rear door of the house, pointing the gun at her head before eventually threatening the officer, Azzata said.
I hold cops to a high standard of conduct but at the same time I have great respect for them and the difficult job they do. This isn’t Hollywood where the good guys shoot the guns out of the hands of the bad guys. Guns are dangerous tools, and in war and police work the safety conditions are somewhat less than ideal. The margin for error is small and the difference is life or death.
I had to qualify with a pistol in the army, the police academy as an armed guard. The qualifying in each case took place at a range where all the safety rules were strictly enforced. When we were shooting there was nothing downrange but targets and something to act as a backstop. We wore eye and ear protection.
Police shootings take place in the real world. Sometimes they take place without warning. Sometimes they take place after an adrenaline-pumping chase where the cops are out of breath. Gunshots indoors without ear protection are deafening. In most police shootings there is a human being that is being shot at and that person is perceived to be a threat to the officer(s). Split-second decisions have to be made under highly stressful conditions.
Not to be callous but shit happens. Humans are not perfect and occasionally make mistakes. Death by “friendly fire” is a regrettable tragedy.
My sympathies go out to the friends and family of Andrea Rebello, but I also feel sorry for the officer who accidentally shot her. He will have to live with that fact for the rest of his life.