DA clears officer in Hofstra student death
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A police officer who fatally shot a Hofstra University junior and her hostage-taker during a standoff inside an off-campus house had no option but deadly force, a prosecutor said Wednesday following an 11-month investigation.
“Though the results were unquestionably tragic, criminal charges under these circumstances would be inappropriate and legally unsustainable,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said at the conclusion of a 28-page report into the May 2013 shooting.
The prosecutor concluded that the death of 21-year-old Andrea Rebello of Tarrytown, N.Y., was caused by gunman Dalton Smith’s decisions to break into a Hempstead residence armed with a gun, taking several residents hostage and then refusing to surrender when police arrived.
An attorney representing the Rebello family in a lawsuit against the county and its police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. A woman answering the telephone at Rebello’s Westchester County home declined to comment and referred calls to the attorney.
Rice’s report for the first time publicly identifies the police officer involved in the shooting as Nikolas Budimlic, an eight-year veteran of the Nassau Police Department who had previously spent 12 years as a New York City police officer.
Budimlic was among the first officers to respond to a report of an early morning robbery at a house near the Hofstra campus. After entering the house, the officer soon encountered Smith holding Rebello in a headlock. Smith maneuvered down a flight of stairs and was attempting to leave with the young woman through a rear door, hollering expletives at police officers and threatening to shoot the student.
“Smith ignored numerous commands to drop his weapon and repeated his threats to shoot both Andrea Rebello and Officer Budimlic,” the report states. “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.”
Rice’s report noted that Smith, 30, had been on parole for his involvement in an armed robbery. An arrest warrant had been issued for him about three weeks before the fatal shooting occurred. Smith also had prior convictions for attempted robbery and weapons possession.
It was not clear whether the weapon he was carrying the night of the Hofstra robbery was operable, the report found. Investigators suggested it may have been damaged after Smith was shot and fell on the weapon.
James Carver, president of the officer’s police union, said he was not surprised by the prosecutor’s conclusions. He said Budimlic has been working in an administrative capacity during the district attorney’s investigation.
“It’s what I expected,” Carver said. “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.”
A spokesman for the police department declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Associated Press writer Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains contributed to this report.