UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – While critics have questioned the actions of the Nassau County police officer who accidentally killed a 21-year-old Hofstra University student, police union officials have called him “a great cop who did the right thing.”
“Our hearts go out to the family of the victim here, (Andrea) Rebello,” said Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver.
But while Carver said he understands why many – including Rebello’s own family members – are questioning how the Hofstra University student was accidentally killed, he said the officer did the right thing.
“To those who second guess, walk a day in our shoes and see how easy your decision would have been that day,” Carver said.
He said the police department’s job is to get inside and protect as many people as possible.
“[He’s being] second guessed and criticized by those that never went to a police academy, never once responded to a call of a man with a gun,” he said. “People that have never worn this uniform, never put on a bullet-proof vest, never went into a house where someone is pointing a gun at their face.”
Carver added that there is only one person to blame for the tragedy.
“And that’s the ex-con that was on parole,” Carver said Tuesday.
The staunch support for Officer Nikolas Budimlic, came after Rebello’s godfather criticized police for not waiting for hostage negotiators.
Police radio transmissions mention hostages. Former NYPD negotiator Jay Salpeter said when there are known hostages, police are trained to wait for a negotiating team.
“The negotiator has been trained to calm and slow the pace down,” Salpeter said.
But PBA officials say the chaotic scene didn’t follow any playbook.
“(They) never transmitted a hostage situation. He was going there because there was a robbery taking place. He was informed there was a man with a gun and he went in there to protect others,” Carver said. “If he had stayed outside and several people were killed in that house, he would have been criticized for not going in that house.”
Inside, police said he found Dalton Smith, 30, threatening to kill Andrea Rebello, pointing a gun at the officer. The officer fired eight rounds — one of them killing the 21 year old student.
The union questions why the career criminal wasn’t in jail after violating parole. He had been released from prison a year early, having served nine years of a 10-year sentence for attempted robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.
“The parole board has to stop releasing people who are violent,” Carver said.
Smith had violated his parole, but he avoided being returned to prison by completing a 90-day drug treatment program.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who has two children at Hofstra, called for a full investigation with the results made public. Meanwhile, New York State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn has asked the state Board of Parole to make public statistics to understand “why the system continues to fail.”
Budimlic is currently on sick leave pending the investigation, but sends his prayers to the student’s family.
A wake was held in Tarrytown Tuesday for Rebello.
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