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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

By Tom Jackman  |  February 23, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Police Shootings , Tom Jackman , Updates  
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the cops murdered that dude and got away with it.....and we're supposed to feel sorry when some cop gets shot!....not.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | February 24, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

There is RARELY [if ever ] such a thing as an "accidental discharge" of a firearm.

This was a clearly a case of NEGLIGENT discharge of a firearm... the swat cop issued weapon was a Heckler/Koch .45 pistol. This pistol has an external [thumb]safety... the cop did not engage the external safety.. he "accidently depressed the trigger with his finger and the weapon discharged.

the cop was NEGLIGENT > in that he did not engage the external safety...

I'm sure the cop did not mean to shoot Dr Culosi... but the cops actions were negligent.. in that he did not use the external safety when movement with a loaded weapon...

I would be interested to read the FCPD swat SOP [standard operating procedures]... do they authorize movement with external safety dis-engaged?? If so > senior management of the FCPD needs to be brought up on charges...

I was in the Iraq war in 2003.... even in WAR > when you are moving >> running from building to building> your weapon was on "safe" >> why?? because if you tripped /stumbled > you didn't want to loose off any rounds that could hurt your buddies... it takes less than a nano-second to disengage that thumb safety and engage a target...

personal opinion >> swat cops are wanna-bees.. cowboys... with all the bells/whistles...[we called them "gear-dos"] and in this case totally UNPROFESSIONAL....

still have not heard about the drowning incident last year with a swat team memeber/ helo rescue.. .... another case of cowboys...

Posted by: kglkgl06 | February 24, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

The substance of this article is the Police can kill with impunity in Virginia.

Posted by: SSTK34 | February 24, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

This is an extract of the official report issued by FCPD:

MPO Bullock was seated in the front passenger seat as his team approached the
rear of the undercover vehicle to control Mr. Culosi. They pulled directly behind
the undercover vehicle, parking several feet away. MPO Bullock began his exit
from his vehicle to approach Mr. Culosi, who remained standing next to the open
passenger door of the undercover vehicle.

As MPO Bullock exited his passenger seat, he pushed the vehicle door outward
forcefully with his left hand to keep his right hand free to draw his issued service
weapon.6 Simultaneously, he turned his body and planted his feet on the
6 It is important to note that MPO Bullock’s drawing of his service weapon was not discretionary.
It is a prescribed tactical method and he was performing as trained and assigned to protect the
undercover detective and himself.

In accordance with his training, MPO Bullock, a right-handed shooter,
began to reach for his holstered weapon, which was in double action mode. As
he manipulated the rotating hood of his holster and began drawing the firearm,
he continued to push the door open with his left hand and began to issue
standard voice commands to Mr. Culosi.

As MPO Bullock removed his weapon from the holster, he was rounding the
outer edge of the door frame. As he did so, the heavy door reached its maximum
opening threshold, bounced back and jarred him, causing him to lose his
balance. His left hand maintained control of the door while his right hand was
affixed to his weapon. MPO Bullock was still in the process of transitioning his
weapon from his holster to establishing a master grip and coming to a “ready
gun”8 weapon stance when the weapon discharged.

One round was fired. MPO Bullock heard his weapon discharge, but did not
immediately realize or recognize he had manipulated the trigger mechanism. Mr.
Culosi was standing approximately 20 feet away next to the open passenger
door of the undercover vehicle. The round struck Mr. Culosi in the left chest, just
under his left arm. MPO Bullock ran to Mr. Culosi to determine if he had been
struck, just after Mr. Culosi fell to the ground.

re-read the portion about how Bullock exited the vehicle... How weird is that ??

How many people exit the passenger side of a vehicle using their left hand to open the door???

Now add in the fact that someone has a fully loaded .45 pistol... locked and cocked...

recipe for disaster...

send these swat boys back to Boy Scout camp for some remedial training on weapons safety... cause the good citizens of Fairfax County should be afraid of their personal safety > if that's the training of our law enforcement..

Posted by: kglkgl06 | February 24, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

WOW, I agree with most of what has been said thus far. These Fairfax cops are dangerous. Its like they have a license to kill, and nothing is done. Any one who has had interactions with Fairfaxs finest knows just how militant these a holes are. Dont give me that BS that they are good for the most part and a few bad seeds ruin their rep. Fairfax is a police state and has always been one. They killed that Military Vet on Rt. 1 a few months ago, and nothing was done. No one was held accountable. Honestly in a low crime county like Fairfax, I am much more scared of the Rambo wannabes rather than the criminal element they claim they are protecting us from. Please Fairfax, hold these murderers and thugs accountable just like any other citizen.

Posted by: AdamAhmed | February 24, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

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