A young man was hiding behind a couch when Smith came down the stairs with Rebello in a headlock. As he headed for the back door while clutching the woman, the officer confronted him and shots were fired.

Mamet cautioned that in such circumstances, information broadcast on police radios may not always get to the officers in a timely fashion. Factors that could disrupt communication include whether sirens were blaring — drowning out the radio — or other conversations were taking place between the officers in a patrol car.

“It’s going to be so important to review all the messages and the recordings of their responses and put it all together,” Mamet said.

O’Donnell, the John Jay professor, cautioned that even with that information “radio transmissions can be wildly inaccurate, but it’s the only tool you have.”

He also noted that “inaction can also have a cost.”

“As bad an ending as this is for the police, imagine how bad it would have been if they were outside and something terrible was happening inside. That would be a story if the police were paralyzed standing outside while people were being killed inside,” O’Donnell said.

He said the tragic circumstances that occurred Friday morning are ultimately the responsibility of the gunman. “He’s the one who chose the escalation of violence,” O’Donnell said.

Nassau County Police were criticized in 2009 after they waited outside a New Cassel home for several hours while a young woman was being abused, and ultimately killed, by her ex-boyfriend. The county later reached a $7.7 million settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit with the woman’s family.

The news that Rebello died from a police bullet only served to compound the tragedy, said Carol Conklin-Spillane, principal of Sleepy Hollow High School, where Rebello and her twin sister graduated in 2010.

“My heart goes out to everyone. You have to empathize with the police officer. He’s dealing with the consequences of a split-second decision,” Conkin-Spillane said.

Henrique Santos of Eastchester, Rebello’s godfather, said outside the Rebello family home in Tarrytown and handed out a statement from the family.

“We are heartbroken and overwhelmingly devastated by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Andrea,” the statement said. “We are grateful for all of the kindness and sympathy shown to our family. In our grief, we ask for privacy as we try to make sense of all that has happened.”

Santos spoke briefly.

“I think the police is not very professional,” he said of the accidental shooting. “If he’s professional, he should have tried negotiation.”

Speaking about the surviving twin Jessica, he said, “She’s sleeping too much. We had to try to give her some food. When she wakes up, she says ‘Oh my god, what did I do wrong?'”

The officer who fired the shots is an eight-year NYPD veteran and has been with Nassau County police for 12 years. He is now out on sick leave. Andrea Rebello’s funeral is Wednesday.


Associated Press Jim Fitzgerald reported from Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

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