When Nassau County police officer Nikolas Budimlic decided that the best idea was to individually charge into a house where a gunman was holding people hostage, there were couple of possible outcomes. The first was that he would be a hero, get a medal and have a statue of him erected. The second was that a lovely young woman, a Hofstra student, would lie dead before he was done, and the machinery of the state would crank into gear to shift the blame.
The odds were against Budimlic’s getting a statue.
Immediately after the death of Andrea Rebello from a bullet to the head, the gunman was blamed. Then it turned out that the “gunman” was Budimlic. The police union then rushed to its member’s aid, explaining how it wasn’t the cop’s fault for shooting Rebello in the head, because criminals.
Then came the victim blaming, speculation about drugs in the house and how maybe Rebello was looking for Mr. Goodbar so that Budimlic’s bullet to the head wasn’t really a big deal. After all, the sweet face of a young coed could rile folks up against the police, but the evil sneer of a drug-addled floozy isn’t nearly as much of a threat. Fortunately, this attempt to smear the victim failed miserably. There was absolutely nothing bad that could be said of Andrea Rebello, except that she ended up on the wrong end of Budimlic’s bullet.
But have no fear, as there would be an investigation, which is ordinarily followed by a great black hole from which no mention of the killing would ever be heard of again. To Newsday’s great credit, however, that didn’t happen this time. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice took time off from her busy schedule of running for higher office to address this tragedy:
A Nassau district attorney’s review of the police shooting that killed Hofstra student Andrea Rebello and the armed robber who took her hostage has ruled out criminal charges against the officer who opened fire.
The report said Officer Nikolas Budimlic was justified in using deadly force during the home invasion last May.
“Though the results were unquestionably tragic, criminal charges under these circumstances would be inappropriate and legally unsustainable,” the report concludes.
Notably, there were two findings, though they are offered as if a connection exists between them. The first is that Budimlic’s shooting of Andrea Rebello was not a crime. And while many would ponder the recklessness of his storming into the house under the circumstances of this case, creating the untenable situation that resulted in his shooting, the eighth bullet of which struck the head of the very person he was there to save, it’s probably an accurate assessment of culpability.
But the second finding is that Budimlic’s shooting of Andrea Rebello was justified. That’s a conclusion of an entirely different nature. The report takes the rather shocking perspective that Budimlic’s having created the scenario that gave rise to his being face to face with the gunman, with his arm around Rebello, had no bearing on the analysis. Once Budimlic was inside the house and facing deadly force, the use of deadly force was justified.
The report provides the officer’s description of what he faced before the fatal shooting:
Budimlic said Smith started using Rebello as a human shield and turned the gun on him, telling the officer, “You’re going to die!”
“Put the gun down, let the girl go!” Budimlic shouted, pointing his gun at Smith.
“I’m going to kill her and you!” Smith threatened.
As the standoff continued, Smith tightened his grip on the crying, terrified student’s neck and switched between pointing his gun at Budimlic and Rebello.
As Smith tried to back toward a rear exit, Rebello began to turn her body away and Smith looked off-balance, according to the officer’s account.
Budimlic fired two shots at Smith, before Smith released Rebello. But the gunman held on to his weapon and tried to aim at Budimlic, the officer said.
Budimlic stepped toward Smith and fired four more bullets before Smith fell. Budimlic fired the final two bullets at Smith when he saw he was alive and still holding the gun.
David Roth, the attorney for the Rebello family, notes a bit of discrepancy in the narrative.
Roth said that in the shooting’s aftermath, a police official said publicly that Budimlic opened fire after the suspect pointed a gun at Budimlic. “Here, he’s saying a gun is pointed at Andrea when he shoots. The day after, police said the gun was pointed at police when he shot,” Roth said.
And the police union is still doing its job.
Police Benevolent Association President James Carver said more people could have died if not for Budimlic’s actions.
“Police officers must make split-second decisions and don’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting,” he said.
And Andrea Rebello is still dead.