In this photo copied from the 2010 Sleepy Hollow High School yearbook, high school student Andrea Rebello is shown. (AP Photo/Sleepy Hollow High School)
by Frank Eltman
Associated Press Writer
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — As a family prepared for the funeral of a Hofstra University junior killed by a police officer’s bullet during a standoff with an armed intruder, some on Monday questioned whether officers should have confronted the gunman or waited for help, including a hostage negotiating team.
The dead woman’s godfather criticized the police handling of the confrontation as unprofessional and others offered insights into the difficulty of making the call to use deadly force.
“There’s a balancing act of trying to take decisive action, but wise action,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and professor of law and police studies at John Jay College. “These situations are so unique and are differentiated by what the cops knew at the time.”
A key question is whether the officers responding to the house near the Hofstra campus at 2:30 a.m. Friday were aware the intruder was holding hostages. Police officials described the initial report as simply a robbery in progress.
One of the two officers who entered the home found the intruder holding 21-year-old Andrea Rebello in a headlock and “kept saying ‘I’m going to kill her,’ and then he pointed the gun at the police officer,” said county homicide squad Lt. John Azzata. That’s when the officer, who has not been identified, fired eight times, fatally striking 30-year-old Dalton Smith with seven shots and Rebello with one shot to the head.
Smith, who had a 9 mm pistol, never fired a shot, police said.