The story isn’t a particularly complicated one, when an armed intruder broke into an apartment of Hofstra University co-eds in search of money and, not finding enough to satisfy him, sent one to an ATM to get more. Even for someone stupid enough to invade a home, this was idiotic. If you want money, you don’t pick an apartment of college women.
Instead of going to the ATM, Jessica Rebello called the Nassau County Police. Her twin sister, Andrea Rebello, remained inside with the intruder. The story turns particularly banal at this point. Cops swarm, gunfight ensues and two dead bodies are found. Two?
According the Huffington Post :
Andrea Rebello, 21, of New York, was shot dead by a masked gunman while her twin sister was in the house, cops told the New York Post. The gunman was also killed in a firefight with police.
The intruder broke into the home at about 2:20 a.m., where the sisters, one of their boyfriends and another woman were staying. The suspect held them hostage for a short time, but let the unidentified woman go to get cash from an ATM. She called police, NBC News reports.
Rebello and the gunman were killed during a firefight that erupted when police arrived. Police told the Post that the suspect killed Rebello, and cops killed him.
This didn’t seem right. Not that it was impossible that the gunman shot and killed this lovely young Hofstra student, but why, in the midst of a gunfight with police would he kill her? To what end? The Daily News told a different story.
Police brass acknowledged that officers opened fire in the house, but couldn’t confirm who fired the bullets that killed the popular college student and the unidentified attacker.
There’s the rub. Bullets have no mind, no conscience. They don’t know who they strike, and they don’t care. At this time, it’s unclear whether the masked intruder ever fired his weapon.
Asked if the suspect fired his weapon, [Chief of Detectives Rick] Capece said authorities wouldn’t comment “until we get more info.”
Why is it always after the bodies are dead that the concern about getting more info strikes?
It may be that the police arrived and were fired upon by the robber, returning fire in turn. It may be that the robber, inexplicably, turned his gun on Andrea Rebello in the midst of a gun fight with police and killed her. There is no requirement that stupid or crazy people act in a rational way or do things that make sense under any line of reason.
But it may also be that the Nassau County Police, a force that doesn’t get many shootouts, failed to exercise tactical judgment, knowing that there was a young woman in the house with an armed gunman. Was there a need for dozens of police cruisers to descend on the house in shock and awe fashion? Did anyone think it through, make an active decision that this was the best thing to do under the circumstances?
It’s not a matter of sympathy for the masked gunman, but cold, hard analysis, that the primary goal at the outset was that Andrea Rebello, as well as the others inside the house, make it out alive. There would be time later to deal with the robber, and capturing or killing him didn’t need to come first. First, make sure the innocents inside stayed alive.
That didn’t happen. That is what makes this a disaster.
The smell of this scenario is all too usual, massive police presence descends on house. The sound of a gun shot and every cop there opens fire. Maybe it was the robber. Maybe it was a cop. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it never happened, and one cop thought he heard something and it was his first shot that made the rest discharge their weapons.
But did anybody stop to think there were people in this house? Did anybody stop to think that firing into this house meant that bullets would strike whoever was in their path, without regard to whether it’s a masked gunman or a young woman?
I hope it turns out that the gunman shot at police first. I hope the gunman shot this 21-year-old college student. Not because it makes this pointless, terrible death any better, but because it’s better than the alternative that the police mindlessly fired into this home and killed her. As a father, that would be more than I could take.
But the smell of this tragedy is bad, and regardless of who killed whom, the goal of the police should have been to assure that the people inside emerged alive. That didn’t happen, and there is nothing about the way in which the police dealt with this situation that gave it much of a chance. Their knee-jerk reaction prevailed when they responded to the call.
And when questioned about how Andrea Rebello died, the knee-jerk reaction was to blame the gunman, even though it may well prove to be the cops. Regardless of whose bullet struck her, this was not a good day for the Nassau County Police. This was a horrible day for the Rebello family. This was a bad day for everyone.
Update: The good news is that an answer as to who shot Andrea Rebello now exists, and Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale released it as soon as possible. The bad news is that it’s as suspected.
Andrea Rebello was shot once in the head Friday morning by an officer who opened fire after the masked intruder pointed a gun at the officer while holding the 21-year-old Hofstra University student in a headlock, Nassau County homicide squad Lt. John Azzata said.
In a tense confrontation with the officer, gunman Dalton Smith “menaces our police officer, points his gun at the police officer,” Azzata said. The officer opened fire, killing Smith and his hostage.
They then lapse into the usual rationalizations:
Azzata said the Nassau County police officer fired eight shots at Smith, who police described as having an “extensive” criminal background. Smith was hit seven times and died. Rebello was shot once in the head.
“He kept saying, ‘I’m going to kill her,’ and then he pointed the gun at the police officer,” Azzata said.
It appears that the story has changed markedly, now with two officers appearing in response to the call, and immediately entering the house, prompting the gunman to hold Andrea Rebello in a head lock. It appears that the gunman never fired a shot.
Condolences to the Rebello family.