The family of Andrea Rebello, a 21-year-old Hofstra student accidentally killed by a Nassau County police officer during a hostage standoff in May 2013, filed a lawsuit against Nassau County and its police department in August 2013. The suit alleges that Rebello was wrongfully killed when a police officer used deadly force aimed at killing Rebello’s attacker. Jessica Rebello, Andrea’s twin sister, also filed a lawsuit claiming that she was harassed and detained by police after the tragic incident. After the lawsuits were filed, Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli said his office is open to considering a settlement agreement.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred in Rebello’s off-campus apartment in Hempstead, New York on the night of May 17, 2013. Armed with a gun, Dalton Smith, 30, broke into the residence in an apparent robbery attempt. After one of the residents called the police, Smith then took several people hostage and refused to surrender to authorities. When Nassau County police officer Nikolas Budimlik arrived at the scene, he entered the apartment and saw Rebello, a junior at Hofstra, in a headlock. Moving down a flight of stairs with Rebello still in a headlock, Smith attempted to leave with the young woman through the apartment’s back door. Smith was yelling expletives at the police officer and threatened to shoot the officer as well as the student. In an apparent attempt to protect himself as well as the woman, Budimlik fired his gun, killing Smith; however, a bullet also struck Rebello, accidentally killing her.
In a 28-page report released in April 2014, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice cleared Budimlik of any wrongdoing. The report states, “Though the results were unquestionably tragic, criminal charges would be inappropriate and legally unsustainable.” The investigative report also concluded that “Smith ignored numerous commands to drop his weapon and repeated his threats to shoot both Andrea Rebello and Officer Budimlik. Officer Budimlic clearly and reasonably believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and Andrea Rebello and, on this basis, made the decision to discharge his weapon.”
Nikolas Budimlik, who was placed on administrative duty during the investigation, has been with the NCPD for eight years and served with the NYPD for twelve. Smith was on parole for armed robbery and had prior convictions for attempted robbery and weapons possession. Three weeks prior to the Hofstra incident, a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
President of the Officer’s Police Union James Carver said that he agreed with the district attorney’s findings. He stated, “It’s what I expected. Officer Budimlic was in a situation where hostages’ lives were at stake. He took appropriate actions. What everybody needs to remember is this tragic incident would not have happened if not for the actions of the perpetrator.”
Website Resource: Family Of Andrea Rebello, Hofstra Student Killed By Cops, To Sue, Huffington Post, August 9, 2013