Culosi appeal rejected in Fairfax police shooting
A federal judge's ruling that Fairfax County could not be held liable for the fatal shooting of optometrist Salvatore J. Culosi in 2006 will stand, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, but Culosi's parents can renew the appeal after trial.
Culosi was allegedly involved in sports gambling with an undercover Fairfax police detective when a tactical officer, Deval Bullock, shot Culosi once in the heart as police began to arrest him on Jan. 24, 2006. Bullock said his door bumped him as he climbed out of his sport-utility vehicle, causing him to fire his .45-caliber pistol accidentally.
Culosi's parents, Salvatore and Anita Culosi, sued Fairfax County, Bullock and Lt. James Kellam, the head of the tactical team. U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema dismissed the county and Kellam as defendants in 2008, ruling the shooting was not the result of improper training or policy.
But Brinkema rejected Bullock's claim that he was entitled to qualified immunity as a police officer properly doing his job, finding that a jury must decide if "the death of Dr. Culosi was the result of intentional force willfully applied by Officer Bullock, or an accident," according to a ruling issued Monday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Both Bullock and the Culosis appealed Brinkema's rulings. After extensive briefing and then oral argument in October, the appeals court ruled that the Culosis could not appeal Brinkema's dismissal of Fairfax and Kellam before the trial without specific justification from Brinkema, which the court found Brinkema did not provide.
Similarly, the appeals court ruled that Bullock was not entitled to immunity until the facts were clearly established, which can only happen at trial.
No trial date has been set, but the trial will likely occur in Alexandria by this summer.
-- Tom Jackman
February 23, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Police Shootings , Tom Jackman , Updates
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