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Posted: 1/27/2006 4:28:39 AM EDT
Something tells me the taxpayers in Fairfax County are going to end up paying out the nose for this one...

Fairfax Police Say Shooting Was Accident
Officer Kills Optometrist Suspected of Gambling

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006; A01

Fairfax County's police chief said yesterday that one of his officers accidentally shot and killed an optometrist outside the unarmed man's townhouse Tuesday night as an undercover detective was about to arrest him on suspicion of gambling on sports.

Police had been secretly making bets with Salvatore J. Culosi Jr., 37, since October as part of a gambling investigation, according to court records. They planned to search his home in the Fair Oaks area, just off Lee Highway, shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Culosi came out of his townhouse on Cavalier Landing Court about 9:35 p.m. and was standing next to the detective's sport-utility vehicle, police said, when the detective gave a signal to tactical officers assembled nearby to move in and arrest Culosi.

"As they approached him . . . one officer's weapon, a handgun, was unintentionally discharged," said Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer.

Culosi was not making any threatening moves when he was shot once in the upper part of his body, police said. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The last fatal police shooting in Fairfax was in September 2000, when an officer killed a man threatening him with a woodcutting tool.

"On behalf of the Fairfax County Police Department and myself, I wish to express our condolences and our sincere sympathy to Mr. Culosi's family and friends," Rohrer said. He declined to answer questions after making the statement.

Police departments generally do not accept responsibility for an officer-involved shooting before an investigation is completed.

Culosi's family in Annandale was grief-stricken and declined to be interviewed. Culosi's older sister, Constance Culosi Gulley, issued a statement saying that her brother was "a respected local businessman and doctor with his whole life ahead of him and didn't deserve to have his life end this way."

Culosi grew up just off Annandale Road, graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School and the University of Virginia, then attended the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis and became a doctor of optometry. He opened practices in Manassas and Warrenton that are attached to Wal-Mart stores.

The officer, a 17-year veteran assigned to the police tactical unit, was not identified. He was placed on leave with pay while police conduct both an internal administrative investigation and a criminal investigation. Rohrer also expressed support for the officer, calling him a valued veteran of the department.

Lt. Richard Perez, a police spokesman, said he could not say how or why the gun discharged.

"When you draw the weapon, you always try to assess what the potential threat is going to be," Perez said. He said the officers in the tactical squad are "highly trained officers. Do unintentional shootings occur? Absolutely. We're humans, and these kind of things do occur."

Perez said he did not know what type of handgun Culosi was shot with.

After several years without any shootings, officers shot and wounded several people last year, including one of their own officers in an accidental shooting. A robbery suspect was shot this month on Route 1. In the nearly 39 years that Robert F. Horan Jr. has been the chief prosecutor in Fairfax, no officer has been charged with improperly shooting someone.

Rohrer said in his statement that the tactical squad routinely performs arrests and provides support for detectives executing search warrants. The chief said in his statement that "we will fully review, as always, our policies, practices and this operation in detail."

Culosi's family said that "police action that results in the death of an unarmed, nonthreatening person calls for a full and open investigation. We hope proper steps are taken by county police to ensure other families won't have to endure similar pain."

Culosi was a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, longtime friend Steve Lunceford said. Culosi excelled at soccer, playing on travel teams as a youth and for the O'Connell varsity. He was not married and had no children.

"He was gregarious, outgoing, loved to sing off-key at weddings," Lunceford said. "For this to happen, it's surreal. The police need to account for and be held accountable for their actions."

Deon Chapman said he became a casual friend of Culosi's after meeting him at a pool tournament at a Fairfax bar about 10 years ago. "He was a laid-back guy, funny guy. . . . I've never known him to even carry a pocketknife. This is a college boy, clean-cut." He also said he had no idea that Culosi might have been a bookie.

In an affidavit for the search warrant, Detective David J. Baucom, who often investigates sports gambling in Fairfax, said he met Culosi at a bar in October and started making NFL bets with him by cell phone. Baucom said he placed more than $28,000 in bets on games through last Sunday and met Culosi about every two weeks to pay his debts or collect his winnings, either at a restaurant or Culosi's home. Through Jan. 16, Baucom had lost more than $5,500 to Culosi, his affidavit stated.

Lt. Steve Thompson, Baucom's supervisor in the police organized crime division, said in a recent interview that there is no shortage of sports bookies in Fairfax and that police investigate only those who meet certain criteria. He said that Fairfax typically goes after only those bookies with many customers who take in $100,000 in bets per week and that larger bookies will take in $300,000 to $400,000 on a busy football weekend.

Last month, another investigation headed by Baucom resulted in the arrest of a man suspected of being a bookie who lives in Washington but operated in Fairfax. When police searched his safe deposit boxes, they seized nearly $350,000 in cash, court records show. Charges against that man are pending.

After shooting Culosi, police searched his townhouse. The results of that search were not available yesterday.

Perez said Culosi had not displayed a weapon or shown any violent tendencies while he was being investigated by Baucom. But Perez said police had to be prepared for any possibility, because "the unexpected can occur."
Link Posted: 1/27/2006 5:03:48 AM EDT
I am leery of any gun-related story that the Post publishes, but regardless, that sucks for everyone involved.

FCPD, issues, IIRC, Sig P226's in .40cal.
Link Posted: 1/27/2006 7:28:51 AM EDT
Ooops.
That sucks.

FCPD Sig 226 9mm
FCSO Glock 22 .40



Link Posted: 1/28/2006 7:07:39 AM EDT
They needed a SWAT team to arrest a gambler? Why not just schedule another meeting with him and arrest him there, by detectives, or a pair of blue suits?

Seems a bit excessive.
Link Posted: 1/28/2006 9:54:07 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/28/2006 9:57:12 AM EDT by larrycwdc]
Accident?? For the purposes of this thread, I'll ignore the fact that the Washington Pox is the source of this story.

With the police spokesman apparently admitting liablity so early, I believe a more appropriate word would be "Negligence." I could also live with the idea of "Apparently Negligent."

Unless, of course, a tree-limb -- under which the officer was advancing, or under which he had been covering in anticipation of this tactical arrest (of what I guess command had some intelligence to believe would be of a felon with a predispotion to violence) -- fell, and hit the officer's shoulder, resulting in an accidental discharge. Or something similar.

As several instructors have told me, once your weapon clears leather, you own everything that happens thereafter, including the round(s) that go downrange, and their consequences. The dichotomy between the need for 'personal defense,' 'defense of others,' and 'what if' has made CC more challenging for me than I originally believed could be the case.

I hope that this officer's eventual disposition, whatever it should be, will establish a metric for future such shootings, which are hallmarked by an unjustified death or injury, lots of regret ... and tragic, if unintended, consequences for the survivors. On both sides of the gun. I also hope that the Chief of Police would use a similar tone if the initial, superficial investigation of a shot fired by a CHP-holder revealed that the holder appeared to have legitimately drawn his/her weapon to engage a potential threat, and the weapon was discharged ... resulting in a tragedy.

LE and the judiciary willl contribute to the metric used to assess shootings with this investigation and the eventual outcome. I'll be very interested to learn if the result is like the case of the US Marshall in Montgomery County (who went to jail for shooting an asshat who was driving away from a confrontation probably caused by the decedent), or the Miami Vice-style Maryland cop (who emptied a magazine into the back of a guy who was acting like I would've acted -- had an unmarked car attempted to block me into a driveway on a residential street) who walked after shooting an innocent man in Annandale.

If this shooting is viewed as an accident after the investigation, I hope this indicates that CHP holders can expect similar treatment, in cases when an apparently justified drawing of a weapon, results in a negligent an accidental shooting, with property damage ... or worse.

No matter what happens, a life was needlessly lost, and it shouldn't have happened. My heart goes out to Dr. Culosi's survivors, the officer himself, as well as the FCPD ... but especially the officer's team-mates. They can not allow recriminations and second-guessing to slow their actions in tactical settings.

I hope the command-staff re-assesses the propriety of using troops -- who receive constant training for the most dangerous (and combative) of engagements -- for the purpose of demonstrating 'shock and awe.' I believe such specialists should not be employed as 'props' in the arrest of other than presumed-violent offenders. This is not meant to belittle the rank-and-file, but tactical-team members have a different mind-set. A mind-set that might have contributed to this officer's finger being on the trigger, if ever so gently, instead of outside the trigger guard.

One of the things 1911sforever reinforces in his training is the absolute necessity to not train such that your draw and fire becomes rote. Incidents like this reinforce the veracity of this stance. Training to rapidly draw, based on commitment to fire, and then not shooting is every bit as important as rapidly drawing, and engaging the target.

Autopilot can save your life in a good shooting (the guy who's rapidly approaching you, gesticulating, and doesn't stop when commanded ... who appeared to have a knife or a gun in his hand ... so you drew and fired ... killing the guy ... whose hand turns out to have been holding a gun), or ruin your life in a bad shooting (the guy turned out to have been a deaf/mute ... the black thing in his hand a blackberry ... on the screen of which is the message: "I can't talk. My friend is hurt. Call 911!" I would view the latter as an accident. Would the Chief of Police?
Link Posted: 1/28/2006 10:44:53 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/28/2006 12:25:45 PM EDT
Link Posted: 1/29/2006 6:45:47 AM EDT

Originally Posted By pevrs114:
They needed a SWAT team to arrest a gambler? Why not just schedule another meeting with him and arrest him there, by detectives, or a pair of blue suits?

Seems a bit excessive.



Not the S.W.A.T team, a tactical response team.

I've had...um...dealings with S.W.A.T, and I am glad I didn't end up like this guy.....

Methinks that FCPD is going to be paying out some large $$ in the next year or so.....
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