This undated photo provided by the Nassau County Police Department shows Dalton Smith of Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Nassau County Police Department)
Edward Mamet, who spent 40 years as a New York City police officer and appears as an expert witness on police procedure, said if the responding officers knew hostages were inside the house, they should have taken a cautious approach and waited for back-up.
“Unless it’s clearly indicated that the lives of hostages and any bystanders are in jeopardy,” Mamet said. “If that’s the case, then everything goes out the window.”
Police Commissioner Thomas Dale said the criminal investigation is ongoing and an internal police department investigation will follow. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said Monday it also was monitoring the police investigation.
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, which represents the officer, did not return telephone calls for comment. He scheduled a Tuesday news conference to discuss the case.
One woman who was in the house when the intruder broke in was permitted to leave the house to get money at a nearby ATM; she called 911 and never returned to the house. It was not immediately clear if that woman told a 911 operator the intruder was holding several people at gunpoint inside the house, or whether that information was relayed to responding officers.
A Nassau County spokesman on Monday cited state law in declining to release 911 tapes of the incident. Some news organizations have posted audio of police scanner chatter of the incident from the Internet, but its accuracy could not be verified. At certain points in the recordings, officers can be heard referring to hostages, but the chronology of events is not clear.
Azzata has said that when the first two officers approached the front door of the two-story home, a woman later identified as Jessica Rebello came screaming out of the house yelling “he’s got a gun.” Azzata said at that moment, officers believed Smith was in the home alone. It was only once inside the house that an officer learned two others besides the gunman were inside.