More Police Shooting Justice

In almost any other profession, if you make a mistake that results in someone’s death, you’ll lose your job. Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply if you’re a cop in Fairfax County, Virginia:

Fairfax County police officials want to suspend for three weeks without pay the officer who accidentally shot and killed Salvatore J. Culosi, an unarmed optometrist being investigated for sports gambling, according to an internal affairs report.

The punishment recommended for Officer Deval V. Bullock in the shooting, which occurred in January, has outraged fellow officers, who said it is too harsh, and Culosi’s family, who said Bullock should never again be employed in law enforcement.

“Any sanction short of this we consider to be nothing more than permission to go out once again and have the opportunity to unjustly kill,” Culosi’s parents, Salvatore and Anita Culosi, said in a statement.

Fairfax officers said the proposed suspension would go far beyond what is typically imposed for an accidental shooting. “The discipline is very disproportionate to prior [shooting] cases,” said Officer Marshall Thielen, president of the Fairfax police officers union. “This was a case where an officer was trying to do everything right, with good intentions. I feel the punishment may be politically motivated because of all the media attention” over the case.

There’s been no small degree of suspicion about what happened in this case, and the officer’s version of events just don’t seem to make sense:

On the night of Jan. 24, the report says, Bullock was getting out of his vehicle when he was bumped on his left side by the vehicle’s door, causing his right hand to “involuntarily make a fist and depress the trigger” of his .45-caliber handgun.

Culosi, 37, was standing outside an undercover police vehicle, which was parked behind his townhouse in the Fair Oaks area. After Culosi was alleged to have paid the undercover officer, who was investigating accusations that he was a sports bookmaker, the officer signaled for two SWAT officers, including Bullock, to make the arrest.

Instead, Bullock, 40, fired one shot into Culosi’s side, killing him almost instantly.

Although police deemed Bullock’s actions accidental, the internal affairs report by Maj. Thomas Ryan says Bullock rushed to get out of his vehicle and arrest Culosi. “This hurried movement caused you to lose sight of your surroundings,” Ryan wrote, “and compromised the safety of your weapon while the muzzle was pointed in the direction of Mr. Culosi.

All of this over an illegal gambling arrest.

  • mike

    But there’s no double standarard for police, none at all.

    Or if they admit to one, it’s because of the stressful nature of the work. Work like busting illegal gamblers using a SWAT team.

    I want to know why his gun was pointed at Mr. Culosi in the first place. Why his finger was on the trigger. Why his weapon was even drawn.

    I’m sure the people of Fairfax feel safe knowing that their police force’s response to an accidental deadly shooting is to say “oops” and give the offending officer a slap on the wrist.

  • Eric

    When I was in the military, we had a young soldier accidentally shoot himself. He was handling his pistol in an unsafe manner while on guard duty and discharged the weapon into his leg. He received non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. It included losing a pay grade, 1/3 month’s pay for 2 months and 45 days extra duty and restriction to barracks. The extra duty consisted of reporting to the Staff Duty Officer and NCO (the people in charge of the unit after duty hours) at 6:00 PM every evening and performing work assigned until 11:00 PM every night. On saturdays, sundays and holidays he had to work from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM every day, with 30 minutes allowed for each meal break, which he was escorted to.

    The punishment was for gross dereliction of duty, mishandling his weapon and causing it to discharge in a way that injured someone. That the person injured was him was less important than the negligence, it could have been another soldier or a civilian that he shot. Does anyone else find it sad that we hold young soldiers to a higher standard than police officers? The soldier deserved his punishment, his weapon should not have been loaded in the first place according to the Special Orders of his guard post. The police officer in question deserves no less than a significant suspension without pay. Honestly, any police officer that accidentally discharges his weapon and shoots someone no longer should be entrusted with law enforcement.

    Of course, with unions involved, we have the confluence of government police power and abuse of power and union practices aimed at increasing their power.

  • Kevin

    It could be worse, at least he’s not getting a medal and hailed a hero, yet.

  • Eric

    Yeah, small consolation when he should have been fired and charged with wrongful death. The very idea that police officers should have immunity from prosecution and lawsuits while performing their job is ludicrous. If they do their job, they will beat the lawsuit or criminal charges brought against them. If they are negligent, they deserve what they get.

    And yes, I do hold them to a higher standard.