It’s early, but this police shooting looks really bad

ncpd-emblemA Hofstra University student is dead after being taken hostage by a career criminal, released (as is normal) by New York’s courts to prey again, and armed (as is normal) with a weapon illegal in New York (or anywhere, as its serial number was defaced) but obtained through criminal channels.

But the worst bit of it was that Andrea Rebello was not killed by the criminal, Dalton Smith. She, and the criminal, died in a hail of bullets from a Nassau County, Long Island policeman. The New York Post:

Smith also made his way down the stairs — holding Andrea in a headlock and using her as a human shield, police said. The officer began talking to Smith, saying, “Put the gun down and let the girl go.”

“I’m going to kill her,” Smith replied. Kourtessis ran into a bedroom. Then he heard the shots.

“I hear ‘pop, pop’ — two shots,” he said. “I run out and I run toward where they are.”

Andrea Rebello. RIP.

Andrea Rebello. RIP.

By then the cop had maneuvered the criminal into the basement area of the home, said Kourtessis. He then watched as the officer shot twice more. He saw other officers outside, and dropped to the floor.

“Andrea! Andrea!” he screamed.

But Andrea didn’t answer.

Both Smith and Andrea were felled by bullets fired by a Nassau officer, cops said.

It’s still early and it’s highly probable that initial media accounts (as is normal) are incomplete and incorrect, so we shouldn’t tee off just yet. But the message coming from Nassau County police is, essentially, that she had it coming for being a victim of crime. They’ve circled the wagons around the shooter, whom they’ve refused to identify, and given a few days of nonchargeable vacation.  Their commissioner actually linehauled his “tough shit” message to the victim’s family in the middle of the night. That’s depraved, but our observation is that police senior management, like commissioners, tend to be rather lower on the character totem pole than those below them on the rank totem pole.

Victims of crime aren’t exactly unusual in the violent, depressed cities of Hempstead and Uniondale that surround Hofstra. The University publishes a tendentious “public safety report” that glosses over the fact that the college sits smack dab in the middle of a ghetto teeming with drugs, crime and brutality. They do this by selecting the data to comprise primarily violence inside the private school’s gated, locked-down residential campus, which is, as you might imagine, pretty mild as violence goes. Meanwhile, Hofstra students warn the newly accepted that walking on the side streets around school is “asking for it.”

No doubt this incident will be seen differently by different people. Cops may see a guy who was trying to do his job, and had a bad outcome, but not bad enough that there should be any consequences for him. Hofstra administrators may see bad publicity needing to be broomed. Libertarians may find a way to blame the war on drugs, liberals may bog down in a battle to discern the “root causes” of Smith’s criminality, and conservatives may well see this as a predictable consequence of revolving-door justice for violent criminals.

And here at WeaponsMan we see another police shooting that speaks to bad training and worse personnel selection. But we’re self-aware enough to see that we, like all the others, are simply applying our own cognitive template — our bias, if you will — to the information we’ve received. Everyone’s ideas are subject to change when the investigation emerges from its present lawyered-up, self-protective cocoon and spreads any factual wings it might have.

Still, two things seem clear: even in California of all places, Dalton Smith would have been incarcerated under what’s left of their three-strikes law, after a violent armed robbery spree that began in 1999 and has only let up while he has been incarcerated. And his criminal activity is over now, but at a price a civilized society shouldn’t have to pay.

But then, this is New York we’re talking about.

Update I:

Nassau County actually had someone on the tube this morning suggesting that, because Dalton Smith was a really really bad guy, it was a lot better for Andrea Rebello that their cop shot her, too. Because otherwise, Smith might have left with her, and whatever he did would far worse than a mercy killing at the hands of the still-unidentified, still on “sick leave” (Nassau County’s term of art for “bad-shooting vacation”) copper. We do agree that Smith was a rotten guy, and the world is well rid of him; but we can’t follow the logic to where the police should be going all Kevorkian on his victims. Lord love a duck. They’re really going all out for this shooter; is he the Chief’s nephew?

Whatever he is, he apparently fired eight rounds at point-blank range and scored eight hits — 7 on Smith and 1 on Rebello. The Nassau County spokescreature said that Smith used Rebello “as a human shield” by way of justifying their cop’s unjustifiable marksmanship, but the other witnesses reportedly said he had her in a headlock. Again, early reports are usually pretty weak.

Several gun bloggers have pointed out there are standard IPSC targets and stages addressing this kind of hostage-taker shot under stress, and even a novice IPSC shooter wouldn’t miss. It comes back to what they initially said in justifying the cop’s manslaughter of the innocent hostage here, that standard guilty cop’s mantra: “he was in fear for his life.”

There’s a word for a guy who panics because he’s so afraid.

In a just world he would be in fear for his liberty right now.

Update II:

No markmanship skills or personal courage required!

No markmanship skills required or wanted! (The “courage” thing must have been a typo).

The Nassau County cops might be badly trained, but they’re staggeringly well paid. The shooter they’re still protecting might be on this list of cops pulling down CEO-level wages; even many patrolmen walked off with a half million or more. The 1% is out there — who knew it was blue-collar (literally) government workers?

As far as the leadership goes, top cops in the department were indicted for running a scheme where financial donors could buy immunity to arrest for themselves and their family members (note the many related stories linked at the bottom of that one, and the case is still ongoing). One of the cops is still awaiting trial; the first to face justice, Deputy Commissioner Bill Flanagan, was convicted on three counts including conspiracy, but beat the rap on the most serious one; shortly thereafter, former Chief John Hunter pled guilty to similar charges and accepted three years’ probation (Flanagan’s lawyers keep postponing his sentencing). The local gadfly paper suggests that the cops are now hostile to the DA, which may be newsman wishful thinking.

But taken together, all these reports suggest a department that was not focused on a mission to serve and protect the public, and did not select and train its officers to that end. Q.E.D.

Update III: 

The weapon Smith had contained two cartridges, one in the chamber and one in the magazine. The police have confirmed that he did not fire a shot. The serial number of the weapon was scratched off, suggesting an illegitimate provenance (Smith could not legally purchase a firearm. He was a felon, and so violating Federal law, and could not obtain a New York permit with his record, unless he was politically connected. In New York, one cannot purchase or possess a firearm, even at home, without a may-issue permit).

We are told the weapon was a SCCY Industries CPX-2 9mm DAO pistol. If you’re not familiar with it (we were not), a capsule NRA review is here. If that is the right designation, the gun does not have a mechanical safety (the CPX-1 variant does). Manual here (PX-1) (pdf).