The Nassau County cop who killed a Hofstra University junior being held hostage by an ex-con is reportedly bereft at the tragedy. A source told the Post, "It was a tragic accident. There’s no reason to believe that any protocol was not followed." However, it seems that the police were working with incomplete information about the situation—and didn't realize that the home invasion suspect was holding hostages.
At around 2:20 a.m. on Friday, Dalton Smith, 30, who had only been paroled earlier this year, entered the home of 21-year-old Andrea Rebello, her twin sister Jessica, and another friend Shannon Thomas. The women had left the door open so Jessica Rebello's boyfriend could go out to move his car. Instead, Smith took them and boyfriend John Kourtessis hostage. Thomas was allowed to leave in order to get more cash from an ATM; she called 911. Jessica Rebello also managed to flee to the safety of police officers, leaving her twin sister and boyfriend with Smith, who was armed.
The Nassau County police then entered the home—and didn't realize that Andrea Rebello and Kourtessis were still there. According to the Post:
The two cops arrived at the house just as Jessica was escaping through the front door, screaming that Smith had a gun. Budimlic saw movement in the house and stepped inside. Almost instantly, he was separated from his partner when the front door slammed shut and locked the other cop out.
“The officer was trapped inside,’’ a source said of Budimlic. Budimlic then “hid behind a wall” hoping to surprise Smith, the source said.
When the terrified Kourtessis, hiding behind a couch, suddenly yelled that police were inside the house, Smith pulled Rebello closer and spotted Budimlic, the source said.
“The officer lost the element of surprise” and was alone with no backup, the source said.
Smith, who had threatened to shoot Rebello, also motioned at the officer, who then fired, killing both the hostage taker and the hostage.
The source said, "There’s no playbook. You arrive at a home, and the guy has a gun to the victim’s head — what do you do?. You rely on your training and your instincts and hope for the best outcome." The NY Times spoke to a former firearms trainer for the NYPD, who said this was a "the worst-case nightmare for cops.... I would hate to be in that situation myself, but the bottom line is if a police officer believes that his death or the death of a civilian is imminent, he is absolutely justified in utilizing deadly force."
Rebello's family has been mourning in their Westchester home. Her godfather said that learning that a police officer killed her was a "second shock."
Residents around Hofstra said that the university needed to step up patrols off-campus, given that so many students live outside the school. One pointed out to Newsday, "'When students have a party, they don't care' about locking their doors, she said, adding that students are '100 percent easy targets' for criminals. 'They have expensive stuff.'"