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Accidents Will Happen; Punishments Should

When a Fairfax County police SWAT team swooped in on Sal Culosi in January, they weren't meaning to kill the 37-year-old optometrist. They thought Culosi was a bookmaker and they wanted to arrest him. But somehow, Officer Deval Bullock's finger made contact with the trigger on his .45-caliber handgun. Officer Bullock shouted the word "police" at Culosi. "Right after "police,' " said Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., "it went pow." Culosi was killed almost instantly.

Yesterday Horan said Bullock will not be charged with a crime. Bullock did not intend to kill Culosi, so no crime was committed. It was a tragedy, but it was an accident, says Horan. That's very likely true. But it's also true that Bullock made a terrible error, an error that cost a man his life. No matter Bullock's intent on that January night, the consequence of his actions should be that he never carries a gun again.

That's a harsh punishment for a police officer, I know. But it seems we have gotten away from the notion that people should be punished for their actions, even when inadvertent. We believe in redemption and second chances. That's all well and good, but sometimes an old-fashioned punishment is what's called for.

My father is a retired military officer. I remember how delicate was the calculus that determined how far someone's career could go in the armed forces. The shortcomings of people under your command reflected on you. An accident on your watch, a collision at sea, an embarrassing incident--these were things that were understand to end whatever forward momentum your career once possessed. I used to think that was rather harsh, unfair. But I see now that there's a reason for it. When the stakes are high, we want only the best.

Which brings me to Iraq and President Bush. Let's give the president and his advisors the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that everything they did and are doing--quickly moving the fight-against-terrorism battlefield from Afghanistan to Iraq, misunderstanding the WMD intelligence, not having an adequate post-invasion plan in place, authorizing interrogation methods that border on torture, instituting domestic eavesdropping--they did for the most honorable of reasons: to protect Americans. But the best of intentions can't alter the reality. And the reality is that by any yardstick, they've made a total botch of the war. The plan was poorly conceived, poorly executed, and for three years Americans and Iraqis have been living, and dying, with the consequences.

Just as I'm sure Officer Bullock did not intend to kill Sal Culosi, so I'm sure President Bush didn't intend to mire us in a tragic war. I feel sorry for him, just as I feel sorry for Bullock. So, what now? A censure at the hands of Congress? That probably won't help much. An apology? That doesn't seem very likely. I think the only thing we can hope for is that the American people, when given the chance, will not support those politicians who refuse to see that even if a crime wasn't committed, an accident happened. Now it's time for the punishment.

[[Please don't direct your flames to Marc Fisher. This is John Kelly, filling in for Marc this week. I'll also be chatting online this afternoon at 1 p.m.]]

By John Kelly |  March 24, 2006; 8:28 AM ET
Previous: Bye-Bye Hecht's Warehouse | Next: Plagiarists I Have Known

Comments

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I don't think the majority of the American people supported Bush in the last election, but he won anyway. It's ultimately not the decision of the majority of people. The electoral college selects the winner. Bush and Cheney are both an embarrasement, yet they seem to be untouchable. If the top officials of this nation does not pay for their errors, how can the American court system, at any level, have the incentive or support to hand out harsher punishments? We have poor leadership to look up to.

Posted by: Worker Bee | March 24, 2006 9:43 AM

Mr Kelly,
I could not agree with you more. Fairfax Officer Bullock did not mean to kill Dr. Culosi, however, his actions were so negligent they directly led to the death of a man.
Having known Dr. Culosi, I am having a hard time even looking at a Fairfax Police Officer without harboring negative feelings towards them. Officer Bullock killed a man, the Chief conducted an internally investigation that he did not allow outside Law Enforcement Agencies to become involved in, then District Attorney Horan, who has never once prosecuted a Police Officer for any crime, let's officer Bullock walk away.
I agree with Mrs. Culosi, that was pathetic, for District Attorney Horan to stand in front of camera's and tell Virginia residents, "We're sorry we killed Dr. Culosi, he had a long day because he was hunting deer the day Dr. Culosi was killed."
Whether intentional or not, there was the highest amount of negligence involved that you could have, and for that somebody should be held accountable. FYI, if anybody believes you could use the same excuse in a court room that District Attorney Horan gave yesterday to the media, then I have a bridge to sell ya.

Posted by: Walt | March 24, 2006 10:34 AM

I feel very sad for Bush too---angry, disgusted, and embarrassed that he is our president, but also sad. It must be terrible to be him now, and he seems absolutely clueless about how to extricate himself (and us) from the mess we're in.

It's profoundly humiliating to be the richest nation on earth and to be screwing up both at home and abroad. People are dying all over Iraq, and it will be a mess for decades. Here, people go without healthcare, and Katrina victims remain homeless.

As Tim Kaine said (maybe once or twice more than necessary), we can do better.

Posted by: THS | March 24, 2006 10:36 AM

Your comment re the narrow margin of error that military officers face is interesting. I have to wonder whether the same criteria still apply.


If so, why is that only the lowest-ranking people are going to jail for Abu Ghraib and other instances of mistreatment? The person in charge either knew what was happening and didn't do anything about it or didn't know what was happening, which means that he or she wasn't paying attention. No heroes in that mess.

Posted by: SJG | March 24, 2006 10:42 AM

Much as I hate to say it, Officer Bullock is guilty of a violation of the most basic safety tenets in safe firearm handling; Don't put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot! And as such he should have been held responsible, as I'm sure a wrongful death lawsuit will do. But had it been me or you, guaranteed we would be criminally charged in addition to a lawsuit.

Posted by: Stick | March 24, 2006 10:47 AM

Sounds like you've been saving up to say this for a long time, John.

Posted by: Chris | March 24, 2006 10:53 AM

Why stop at President Bush? Why not all the Senators and Representatives who voted in favor of military action? President Bush is the Executive. He has been executing the orders of Congress.

Posted by: Responsibility | March 24, 2006 10:54 AM

So to recap the events, a Fairfax County SWAT Officer kills an unarmed, compliant Doctor, then Fairfax County Police conduct their own investigation, then a Fairfax County District Attorney says it was just an accident and nobody needs to be held accountable. None of the evidence in the case is reviewed by any unbiased 3rd party Law Enforcement Agencies. Hmmm, seems totally fair to me. I guess every stereotype about Police in Fairfax is correct, especially when given the opportunity they do nothing to change them.

Posted by: Yankees Fan | March 24, 2006 11:00 AM

John said: I think the only thing we can hope for is that the American people, when given the chance, will not support those politicians who refuse to see that even if a crime wasn't committed, an accident happened. Now it's time for the punishment.


It may be time for the punishment, but we still have almost three years to go before someone new takes over. Seems like we're the ones being punished.

Posted by: Judi | March 24, 2006 12:17 PM

I totally agree with John's comments, but I think he needs to take it one step further: we also need to apply the same standards he proposes in the case of traffic "accidents." Sure, most folks who cause crashes may state that they don't intend to hurt anyone, but that's the result that could clearly be expected from their irresponsible driving behavior (speeding, running red lights, driving while on a cell phone, etc.). For far too long, our courts have treated vehicular crimes as purely unintentional accidents, and few perpetrators end up paying more than a small fine for the grief they cause others. Read "It's No Accident" by Lisa Lewis for more insights.

Posted by: ralph | March 24, 2006 12:33 PM

I simply look at the pictures of Bush at the start of his presidency and those from the present. You can see how quickly he has aged in that office and the wear and tear being president has had on his body. I have no doubt that the man must suffer unbelievable amounts of stress over waging a war.

But yes, there must be punishments besides the guilt equated with killing an innocent man or the weight of an illegitimate war on ones shoulders. But there is a large difference between being punished for a mistake and taking responsibility for one. I believe accidents only happen when somebody is repentent for their actions. That is where our President fails. While it would be political suicide, the only way Bush can get any compassion from me in the slightest is for him to apologize and owe up to his mistakes. But it seems that most politicians have lost the art of the apology unless they're heading to jail.

Maybe we can hope for the same from Bush.

Posted by: Dave | March 24, 2006 12:41 PM

Sorry John, but I don't see how the shooting of Sal Culosi by a SWAT member of the Fairfax County Police is in any way shape or form connected to Iraq.

If you've got a beef with Pres. Bush over the Iraq war then make your argument separately. Dragging Sal Culosi into your patehtic anti-war argument makes a mockery of the tragic curcumstances that killed Sal. Where do you come up with such nonsense?

Posted by: Keith | March 24, 2006 12:45 PM

I can see how the two stories are connected. People are not paying for the crimes they commit. Yes, I mean crimes. There is a line between accidents and carelessness. People will interpret both terms differently. A man in Fairfax is dead and the incident was considered an accident. People are being killed in Iraq because of our government's carelessness in evaluating the war.

Posted by: WB | March 24, 2006 1:01 PM

People are being killed in Iraq not because of anything that Americans have done but because Iranians, Syrians, and Saddam's followers are brutish butchers who enjoy murdering Iraqis. More Iraqis died under Saddam than have died since he was overthrown.

Posted by: What Iraq are you thinking of? | March 24, 2006 1:07 PM

I'm thinking of the Iraq we invaded unnecessarily. It may be that more people died under Saddam's regime than have died since, but we weren't killing them. And Americans weren't being killed.

Posted by: Judi | March 24, 2006 1:15 PM

So according to Mr Horan, if I were to be showing his wife my brand new .45 and it accidentally went off and killed her; "No crime No fowl!" It's just an unfortunate event. There was no malice in my heart, I didn't mean to do it, and I would be personnally devestated at having takin a human life. So it isn't a crime.

Hunh-I thought that was the very definition of Involuntary Manslaughter!

BTW- the above was a scenario for example only- I do not intend to shoot anyone- ever!

Posted by: D~ | March 24, 2006 1:27 PM

If two middle eastern nations want to take pot shots at each other, let them. Putting terrorism to the side, we have no business sticking our noses in those matters. But, our president has and now our troops are being killed.

Posted by: WB | March 24, 2006 1:53 PM

Hear, hear. Our politicians like to say that no one is above the law, but it seems as if law enforcement and high-ranking public officials are exceptions. When they absolutely can't spin something into an advantage for them, they find a lower-ranking scapegoat to take the heat -- like Michael Brown, Scooter Libby, or the low-ranking people who were convicted for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. It's a disgrace.

Posted by: Tina | March 24, 2006 1:56 PM

In the military we used to call a weapon that was inadvertently fired an "accidental discharge." However, that changed a few years back and they started calling it a "negligent discharge." This results now in potentially career ending punishments. Look at the Faces of the Fallen. When you see the comment "Died from non-hostile gunfire." that is a good chance the sodlier was killed because someone failed to properly clear and secure their weapon. Professionals who handle weapons are taught from day one that unless you intend to fire the weapon your finger remains off of the trigger. This is that "accidents" like this do not happen.

Try this activity at home, kill a loved one and see if it is passed off as an accidental shooting. Negligent homicide is what you will get. If you are lucky it will be 2nd degree manslaughter, but not at all will you not receive some form of punishment.

Fairfax needs to go ahead and settle with this family in civil court and not try to hind behind this finding and claim there is no liability.

Posted by: Tired of it | March 24, 2006 2:01 PM

I would be horrified if more people had died since Hussein was overthrown than died under his regime, considering he was president for 24 years.

Posted by: Ellie | March 24, 2006 2:02 PM

WB--Does your logic about "if two Middle Eastern nations want to take pot shots at each other, let 'em" apply also to European nations? Did we have "no business" intervening in World War II? What about other cases of genocide like Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur? All "none of our business?"

Posted by: --B. | March 24, 2006 2:04 PM

For Keith: My argument may be pathetic, but I don't necessarily think it's anti-war. It's "anti-bungled-war." Regardless of his intentions going in, Bush has handled the war poorly. Regardless of his intentions going in, the Fairfax officer killed a man. I'm employing a time-honored journalistic technique called an analogy. Or maybe it's a metaphor. In any case, if you knew Sal I'm sorry for your loss. But I'm not sorry for referencing that tragedy to make a point about another one.

Posted by: John Kelly | March 24, 2006 2:17 PM

I think one of the great wonders of our time has been the ability to somehow cloud the issue regarding what authorization was approved by Congress, and what approval was given by the UN. Neither of those bodies gave authorization to invade Iraq given the fact that Iraq was in fact cooperating.

Somehow, people forget that WE ordered the inspectors out over their objections. The fact that they had not found any WMD was incorrectly taken as evidence of a lack of cooperation when in fact it should have been taken as putting into question the entire assertion of Iraq having them in the first place.

As in this horrific event in Fairfax, those in authority are being allowed to write history without being accountable for their mistakes. I just hope that those who question the decision not to prosecute this officer do not have their patriotism questioned as do those who question our destruction of a country based on lies and poor judgment.

Posted by: Regarding responsibility... | March 24, 2006 2:20 PM

We very deliberately didn't participate in WWII until we were attacked here...this new preemptive war policy disturbs me greatly.

Posted by: Re: WWII | March 24, 2006 2:28 PM

John Kelly comes on strong!!! Yeah, baby!!

Here's a story I read last night in "Cobra II":

Long before the Iraq invasion, Tommy Franks presented an invasion plan to the administration via secure videoconference. Bush was watching from a special secure videoconference room in his ranch at Crawford, Cheney watched from his Wyoming getaway, while Rumsfeld participated from his spread in New Mexico. In other words, these three millionaires have taxpayer-funded video conference setups of some kind in their vacation homes where they plan invasions of other countries. Good Intentions? John, you are far too kind.(But you already knew that).

peace to all my brothers and sisters,
jim preston

Posted by: jim preston | March 24, 2006 2:39 PM

Now, speaking of fresh buds and nefarious deeds, what are you up to this weekend?

Posted by: jim preston | March 24, 2006 2:41 PM

In reading the Post article, one cannot help but wonder where the incompetence began and where, if ever it will end. First and foremost, Robert F. Horan Jr. should seriously consider retirement because it seems the stench on this fish really begins at the head. From what I have read, in over 35 years as Fairfax’s District Attorney he has never, repeat never brought a police officer up on charges related to their improper conduct. Something is very wrong and the residents of Fairfax should realize that their Police Dept. has been given Carte Blanche with their lives at stake.
The explanation that the gun “it went pow”, that is like my 6 year old niece saying “the cookie jar just went crash”. Officer Deval Bullock cannot explain what happened, let me help him out…looks like you did not get enough sleep that day, 7 hours on, 8 hours off and back on the job again….your finger was on the trigger and not straight, you raised your gun up and not down, you violated your basic protocols in effecting an arrest and killed a innocent man. Sometimes the safety of the public must come before the need for overtime.

Posted by: hornet126 | March 24, 2006 2:43 PM

People who live in FFX know Mr. Horan to be a busted old drunk. U can find him at the same SPORTS bars that Mr. Culosi was making bets slamming down is daily limit of cocktails. Yesterdays press conference is in my opinion a cry for help for our county and this man. His eys were so glassed over, some people actually thought he was crying. It is apparent the he needs to be replaced. He could not even be creative enought to come up with another reason for this injustice other than the officer was tired. If I am tired and I get behind the wheel of my car and kill someone. What happens? Rest my case. As far as the Bush white house mistakes go, its fun to watch all of these staunch republicans jumping ship. I have been telling my republican friends this for years now and they are just starting to get it. Stubborn people. Look at the lives u have taken. Yes u r responsible too. U voted for this JackA&&. BTW, if a tired police officer from Fairfax comes to ur door or pulls u over - RUN!

Posted by: SR-Don't answer door the dr | March 24, 2006 2:44 PM

Just sent this to Robert Horan's email-not sure it will do anything:

I was shocked to hear your decision regarding Officer Bullock yesterday! While I am confident that the shooting was unintentional and I am confident that the officer is distraught over the shooting! I am horrified by your words!

Because Officer Bullock didn't intend to shoot Mr. Culosi no crime was committed?!?!?!?!?!

To use your logic, if one of your friends were showing your wife their brand new .45 cal handgun, and it goes off killing her, no crime has been committed? Since there was no malice in their heart, they didn't mean to do it, and they would be personally devastated at having killed a human. It isn't a crime?

I thought that this was the very definition of Involuntary Manslaughter! Which as I understand it is a crime!

In fact you can see that many crimes have been committed-pick one:
§ 18.2-56.1. Reckless handling of firearms; reckless handling while hunting.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to handle recklessly any firearm so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-282. Pointing, holding, or brandishing firearm, air or gas operated weapon or object similar in appearance; penalty.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish any firearm or any air or gas operated weapon or any object similar in appearance, whether capable of being fired or not, in such manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another or hold a firearm or any air or gas operated weapon in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured. However, this section shall not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense. Persons violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor or, if the violation occurs upon any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school, including buildings and grounds or upon public property within 1,000 feet of such school property, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

§ 18.2-286. Shooting in or across road or in street.

If any person discharges a firearm, crossbow or bow and arrow in or across any road, or within the right-of-way thereof, or in a street of any city or town, he shall, for each offense, be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor

§ 18.2-154. Shooting at or throwing missiles, etc., at train, car, vessel, etc.; penalty.

Any person who maliciously shoots at, or maliciously throws any missile at or against, any train or cars on any railroad or other transportation company or any vessel or other watercraft, or any motor vehicle or other vehicles when occupied by one or more persons, whereby the life of any person on such train, car, vessel, or other watercraft, or in such motor vehicle or other vehicle, may be put in peril, is guilty of a Class 4 felony. In the event of the death of any such person, resulting from such malicious shooting or throwing, the person so offending is guilty of murder in the second degree. However, if the homicide is willful, deliberate and premeditated, he is guilty of murder in the first degree.

If any such act is committed unlawfully, but not maliciously, the person so offending is guilty of a Class 6 felony and, in the event of the death of any such person, resulting from such unlawful act, the person so offending is guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

If any person commits a violation of this section by maliciously or unlawfully shooting, with a firearm, at a conspicuously marked law-enforcement, fire or rescue squad vehicle, ambulance or any other emergency medical vehicle, the sentence imposed shall include a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one year.

(Code 1950, § 18.1-152; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15; 1990, c. 426; 2004, c. 461; 2005, c. 143.)

I must confess I am no longer sure that in the Commonwealth there is "justice for all". I am sure of one thing , however! If it had been me instead of Officer Bullock and any body else regardless of the circumstances, I would be prosecuted and be required (rightly so) to stand trial.

Virginia has very lax gun control laws and it is ridiculously easy to get a 'right to conceal permit' in the Commonwealth. Please note that I am a gun owner! I have always been afraid to visit my friends in Virginia. I can say with all sincerity that I am now terrified! You have State Representatives discharging weapons in the statehouse, Police killing unarmed civilians with NO ACCOUNTABILITY. The citizens of Fairfax are going to pay for this nonsense in now justified lawsuits.

Posted by: D~ | March 24, 2006 2:47 PM

Looks like Fairfax County has adopted the Dick Cheney selection of excuses.

Posted by: SS | March 24, 2006 2:58 PM

I am sitting here and just cannot get over the fact that the Chief Prosecutor for Fairfax County expects the community to accept the fact that the reason Sal Culosi was shot and killed is because and I quote "The officer was tired". PLEASE GOD HELP ME! Are you kidding me. This man stood before cameras and did not blink an eye and made this statement. You have to beleive that all county D.A's across the nation laughing at what an idiot he is. Mr. Horan is a fungus/bacteria that we can no longer afford to plague our community. My god, what has happend here. A tired man shoots and kills someone and its acceptable to the Chief of Police and our elected official (Idiot Horan). This man is elected to ensure justice is served and that the citizens of this county are protected. Correct me if I am wrong, but now we must be protected from TIRED COPS. Come on Horan - U r an idiot. For you people who do not live in FFx County, Mr. Horan is an alcholic and has refused treatment several times. Its obvious after yesterdays press conference that he cannot no longer function in this postion. Please Mr. Horan - step down. Innocent people are being killed on your watch. IDIOT!

Posted by: Horans an Idiot by SR | March 24, 2006 3:21 PM

Let's say that it was a car rather than a gun and that a motorist hit a pedestrian by accident, if there was no alcohol and the motorist was not running a red light or stop sign should they be sent to prison? Should they face a lifetime ban on their driver's license? If we as a society agree that police officers should carry guns then we must accept that accidents happen, just as we accept the many thousands of deaths every year that result from traffic accidents. Accidental firearm deaths are less than 10% of automobile related fatalities--we accept those deaths as the cost of driving--likewise we should accept that some firearm fatalities are the cost of giving guns to police officers.

Posted by: Chris | March 24, 2006 3:57 PM

I only wish O.J. was a Fairfax Police Officer, cause I could have said, "if he's tired and the glove don't fit you must acquit!!"

That would have saved me a lot of time, I could have been out golfing, or deer hunting..

D.A. Horan needs to investigate all Police related incidents throughout the U.S., that way we could guarantee I cop would never be charged with anything. Hmm, I am sorry I hit you with a bataan 27x, or I am sorry I shot and killed you, I was tired and I did not mean it...therefore I am innocent.

Posted by: Jonnie Cochran | March 24, 2006 4:18 PM

To Chris, are you kidding me, we should accept that accidents with firearms happen. Are you stupid? Accidents with firearms should never happen, and when we start making excuses for "supposed well trained" SWAT officers, who discharge their weapon killing an unarmed compliant man, than where do we stop? Do we then say to people walking across the street, sorry the driver of the vehicle was talking on the cell phone and accidentally ran you over, it was a mistake because he had his cell phone.
Your comments minimalize the professionalism that Police Departments are supposed to have. Clearly in this case Officer Bullock, the Chief of Fairfax Police and the District Attorney have decided that Dr. Culosi's life meant nothing to them, and therefore the case does not warrant somebody being held responsible.
Personally, I find it reprenhensible that a Police Dept. in 2006, can kill an unarmed man, conduct their "own" investigation and then come out with an Attorney who appeared to be intoxicated, and simply say it was an accident. Are you kidding me, if anybody reading this believes for one second if you shot a Police Officer or somebody else and you the same lame ass excuse that District Attorney Horan gave to the media yesterday, then you are a complete tart.
Are system is supposed to be based on Justice, in Fairfax County it's based on something other than that.
Wow, it must be nice to be a Fairfax Cop and have a blank check to kill people..."Oh, I am sorry, I pulled out my gun from my holster, pointed it at your chest, squeezed the trigger, it must be because I was tired from deer hunting." To the District Attorney of Fairfax County your decision was pathetic, you should be ashamed of yourself, you have never held a Police Officer responsible for anything, and this case was as easy as could be. Dr. Culosi was compliant, and unarmed, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. You are no better than the people you prosecute, neither is Fairfax Police Department.

Posted by: Yankees Fan | March 24, 2006 4:35 PM

This comment is for Chris above. I am leaving to go watch the GM game at Verizon Center. Just read ur comment. U must be HORANS Son, because again, only an idiot can make such a statement. Really, I want u people to stay home. God please help us. Oh I get it, ur drunk too. Just how many people have u killed with ur car. Sounds like a voice of experience. IDIOT!

SR

Posted by: SR | March 24, 2006 4:38 PM

I was a Police Officer for several years, and I must apologize to all of those affected by the death of Dr. Culosi. I would like to let each of you know that not all Police Departments conduct themselves in a totally unprofessional manner as did Fairfax County Police in this case. I feel bad for Officer Bullock but what he did was a crime, no matter how District Attorney Horan tries to spin that. He pulled out his weapon pointed it at a man's chest and squeezed the trigger, that's not an accident, that is negligence. I heard the District Attorney's comments, but I could not disagree with him more, there is plenty of evidence, you have a gun, you have a spent shell casing, you have a bullet lodge in Dr. Culosi, you have a video tape, you have plenty of evidence to take this case to a Grand Jury. It should be mentioned that District Attorney Horan has never once brought charges against a Fairfax Police Officer. The public should not think for a second that doesn't weigh on each of the Officers working for Fairfax County, you develop a sense of invincibility. You are held accountable for nothing, go ahead fire away, you know that nothing will happen.
To Officer Bullock, give it up, no matter what is said to you, there is not an Officer anywhere in the country that would go through a door in front of you, once you have one "accident" chances are greater that you will have another.

I can not believe that in 2006, a District Attorney in the U.S. stood in front of cameras and made the comments that District Attorney Horan made. Wow, I was blown away by his total lack of commonsense and reasoning. How in the world is this man still involved in the legal system. I am really sorry to the family, friends, patients, neighbors, and acquaintances of Dr. Culosi, each one of you deserve more than what you got from Fairfax Police. No matter what you hear take it from an ex Police Officer, that was a crime, it just won't be punished because the District Attorney does not want to make waves with his friends.

Posted by: Embarrassed Cop | March 24, 2006 5:10 PM

Speaking of that Abu Ghraib thing, didn't you hear? It was all the dogs' fault.

EWM- (March 22, 2006) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flummoxed the Pentagon press corps and ignited a political firestorm today by blaming the dog pictured menacing an Iraqi prisoner in Abu Ghraib that led to handler Sgt. Michael J. Smith being convicted of prisoner abuse.

“I mean come on, look at that taut leash, the dog’s lunging posture, its snarling zeal. That dog is out of control. It’s something we don’t like to talk about, but the fact is you go to war with the dogs you have, not the dogs you wish you had...

"The Canine Conspiracy" http://www.eyewitnessmuse.com/musings.php?p=197

Editor’s Note: Please excuse the Muse for reporting fantasy. As a Fairly Unbalanced Journalist, it’s his calling.

Posted by: The Eyewitness Muse | March 24, 2006 5:17 PM

Oh, and lets not forget that this is the very same police force that a few years back walked brazenly into restaurants on New Years eve and arrested citizens. This was done inside the establishments and without a call for assistance from the owners. The Officers were given discretion to arrest anyone they believed to be intoxicated.

If you think about it, it is possible that sometime in the next few years someone is liable to be shot to death inside of a restaurant in Fairfax by the police for drinking. Accidentally of course!

Posted by: D~ | March 24, 2006 5:42 PM

Whether it is killing people or invading nations it is the same thing: hostile action without just cause, death without consequence.

"Oops, my bad," doesn't cut it. Not for a president, not for a police offer.

The officer commited MANSLAUGHTER whether he intended to or not. The president committed HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS whether he intended to or not. There are civil and criminal penalties for both actions in a just society. There must be consequences to retain order.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 25, 2006 12:29 PM

The officer was never tested for drugs or alcohol after the accident. This should be routine.

There's no way the gun can fire without a heavy, deliberate pull on the trigger. It can never fire accidentally.

Despite what everyone says, I think the officer saw something that caused him to shoot. Light boucning off something and into the cop's glasses or, since he was sleep-deprived, just his eyes, could cause him to over-react and shoot.

Routine testing for drugs and alcohol should be instated when cops open fire unexpectedly. Right now we only have the officer's statements to assure us that he didn't drink between his two shifts that day.

Routine testing is the workable solution. Taking a gun away from a cop isn't sensical. They'll squeal like stuck pigs if you do that. Make them reject drug testing after shoot-outs. That'll force them to defend alcoholics on the SWAT team.

Posted by: J. M. Deutch | March 25, 2006 4:11 PM

If I were Mrs. Culosi and the family, I owuld be going to the Godfather for justice, because it is clear Horan and the Fairfax police will not provide it. It is insane to think that an officer who negligently kills someone--for whatever reason--will not face justice ina courtroom.

It is even crazier that the Fairfax PD--who had made several bets with Culosi--would use a Swat team when they knew the guy was harmless. Calculating the probability that Mr. Culosi would turn into Rambo is not hard.

Perhaps the FBI will get involved or the Feds. Mr. Culosi's civil rights were violated even more than Rodney King's.

Posted by: The Godfather | March 26, 2006 6:32 AM

Please also visit Mr. & Mrs. Culosi's website: www.justiceforsal.com to find out how you can help them make sure that what happened to Sal, never happens again.

Posted by: Friend of Sal's | March 27, 2006 7:51 AM

Apparently I am an idiot, but at the very least I can spell. Allow me to reiterate my main poin--that so long as we as a society arm our police officers that accidents are inevitable, they are the "cost" of having armed police officers. In other countries, such as Great Britain, police officers do not routinely carry firearms. It is a choice that we made to allow our officers recourse to deadly force--even Barney Fife with one bullet had recourse to deadly force. So long as we allow this condition to continue accidents are inevitable. If you would take a moment to read what I wrote rather than taking an opportunity to insult me then perhaps we can have a reasoned discussion. I also said that automobile deaths are the result of having cars just as rat poisoning deaths are the result of having rat poison and sky-diving deaths are the result of sky-diving. I could have used any of those as an illustration, but that does not mean that I push people out of airplanes, poison them with rat poison or cause mayhem in any other way. My question is what penalty fits the crime--an officer performing his duty shoots someone accidentally--this should result in a harsher penalty than someone who kills another person while operating their motor vehicle? Why? Why am I an idiot for asking?

Posted by: Chris | March 27, 2006 2:29 PM

In this day of overt corruption in business, government and law enforcement. I wonder who's names were in Dr. Culosi's books!

I don't think they will ever be made completley available to the public.

Posted by: D~ | March 27, 2006 2:50 PM

First, Mr. Horan is the Commonwealth's Attorney for Fairfax, not a district attorney. The population of Fairfax County seems to like him; he keeps getting re-elected. Second, I have heard that even among the police, Mr. Horan has the reputation for only taking cases to trial that can be won. This might be because he has only office in Northern Virginia in which the number of prosecutors outnumber the number of sitting judges. (Sort of a tail wagging the dog situation.) Finally, as a court clerk for about nine years in Fairfax Circuit Court, I found that the community overwhelmingly supports, and believes its police force. While I've never had a bad experience with Ffx. police, it's in my nature to question those with that much authority. (I figure that it keeps things honest and above-board.) My nature is not shared by many in this County.

Posted by: Alice | March 28, 2006 11:52 AM

I've read the article and quite a few of the comments and I agree with the view that this was a negligent discharge. Now, here is where I think a line needs to be drawn. Its a little off subject, and I apologize for this, but please do not call it an accidental discharge.

There is a big difference in the two terms, and I would like to clarifiy my statement for the purpose of cleaning up the ambiguous use of the terms.

An accidental discharge happens when there is a mechanical failure resulting in the discharge of a weapon. This may involve the round cooking off in an overheated barrel, a jolt in a vehicle slamming the bolt carrier and firing pin into the round, or a similar accident. This is not the fault of the office/soldier using the weapon.

A Negligent Discharge is the result of unsafe practices in the use of the weapon. Improper weapon orientation, having the weapon off safe when not intending to fire, having your finger on the trigger when not having a clear target sighted, improper clearing of a weapon, or just plain fooling around with the darn thing.

There is a soldier in my unit currently under investigation for a Negligent Discharge here in Iraq. I have been searching the web for similar incidents and came across this. I think the reason he is being charged is because of the fuzzy, grey definitons of the terms and not calling each by their correct catagories.

The exact circumstances of his Discharge was that he was a .50 cal turret gunner of a HWMMV (Hum-V) on route Irish. (this is the "highway to hell" leading from Baghdad International Airport to the "International Zone" in downtown Baghdad) The standard for travel is that the .50 cal is locked and loaded with a 100 round belt and has NO mechanical safety to keep the weapon from firing. He also has an M-4 (shorter version of the M-16) in which he uses to quickly cover potential danger areas. In the process of doing his job, he was observing an overpass with his M-4, turned, and a part of his protective vest caught the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun. The M-2 accidentally fired 3 rounds in which no one was injured.

Now he is facing loss of rank for what I have determined to be a complete accident for which he has no fault. If any of you have any views on this, I will be checking this post. I apologize again for going off subject, but I do see some need for this statement. (and no, I am not the soldier being charged, but I do not want to see anyone punished for doing their job, especially when there is no safety on the weapon, and its required that he have a round chambered and ready to roll.

Posted by: An American Soldier in Iraq | March 31, 2006 10:32 AM

This message is primarily for "Chris" who posted on March 24 and March 27. I understand your logic that if police officers didn't have guns there would be no negligent shootings by them. I do not understand why citizens have to accept negligent shootings by police officers, however. First, law enforcement officials receive a far greater amount of training on how to safely handle their firearm than the average motorist does in how to safely operate a motor vehicle. Second, your analogy of a motorist striking a pedestrian does not have similar enough circumstances as a law enforcement officer negligently discharging his firearm to reach a similar conclusion. In your scenario the motorist was obeying all of the rules of safe DRIVING.(i.e. not speeding, not driving while under the influence of any drugs, not trying to read a paper, etc.) For an officer to negligently his firearm he/she has to ignore one or more of the rules for SAFE GUN use.(i.e. not having your finger on the trigger, having the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and utilizing the safety catch) All of which are the very first things taught in ANY firearms safety course. To give a correct analogy involving a motorist compared to the negligent discharge of a firearm by a law enforcement officer, or any citizen for that matter, would require that the motorist be negligent in obeying one or more of the rules safe DRIVING, which would result in them being indicted for some degree of vehicular manslaughter. A crime that until not too long ago was punished using the negligent homicide statutes. I would like to know if your opinion on this matter would change if the deceased were a family member or close friend of yours. I do not believe that an officer who has committed a crime should be subject to harsher punishment than the rest of society, but I do believe he/she should be held to the same level of accountability. That is the issue at hand here with Dr. Culosi; the officer who killed him has not been subject to any accountability, whatsoever. Overall, I would have to agree with "YankeesFan" and "SR" that not so much as you, at the moment, are an idiot, but that your argument is idotic, founded on ill judgement and false pretenses.
P.S.-Skydiving accidents and accidental poisonings that result from negligence are punishable under the law. Sentencing of those being punished has a multitude of factors that attempt to make the punishment fit the crime. To say that there is nothing we can do about it, so let it be is quite frightening if your a registered voter. Police and red light cameras try to make the roads as safe as possible, the Institute for Poison Control trys to ensure labels of poisonous containers are clearly labeled POISON, and regular inspections of skydiving equipment ensure they are safe for use.

Posted by: Kyle | April 5, 2006 8:24 PM

I have been following the Dr.Culosi incident from the very beginning of this tragic event. And I want to first let the family and friends know that my heart goes out to their lost.

I am a former COP & ERT(SWAT) from another jurisdiction. I reside in Fairfax Co. for about 15 yrs.

I agree that there are no accidental discharge of a firearm, only intentional and unintentional. Having said that, Fairfax Co. immediately took responsibilty for the unintentional discharge. On National TV. They could have easily thru a weapon beside Dr.Culosi, and know one would have been the wiser, "this operation was done at night and with only 2 SWAT officer." But that wasn't the case here. The Officer involved did the right thing in a bad situation and told the truth. I cann't say that would've been the case where I was a COP.

I'm amaved that we have so many expert after the fact. But if you were really truely and expert you would reserve comment on the situation. The fact is that (1)Dr.Culosi was shot and killed while unarmed and compliant; (2) That Dr. Culosi was alledgedly involved with a large sum of money from sports betting; (3)That a member of Fairfax Co SWAT Team did discharge his H&K .45 striking and sadly killing Dr.Culosi; (4) Was the officer falling, stumbling or have a perfect shooting platform?; (5) Mr. Horan did not charge the officer.

Now lets look at what we don't know. Why, would a Dr. Culosi put himself in the middle of the under world of gambling, and according to court records cocaine in his residence?; What does a person of violence look like and what would they do to protect their criminal earnings?; When the officer unintentially fired his weapon, what were the weather condtion, the lighting, the terrain?; Was he stationary or moving? Was it one handed or 2 handed? Was the gun up, or at the ready?; Why didn't Vice President Chaney get charge for his shooting of his hunting, buddy? Did Mr.Horan have anything to do with that one too?; Didnt the same SWAT Team serve another gambling search warrant on a Great Fall Mansion, where several guns were taken off people. One being the owner, a couple of weeks prior?

We all agree that the officer should be held accountable for his action. Charging the officer for doing what he is told to do and trained to do, and making a mistake in the process will not bring Mr.Culosi back. The officer will have to deal with the ridicule of us and his peers, the law suit that will surely drain his financial resources, and the disaplinary action yet to come.

When did we as citizen make the determination that COPs aren't capable of making a mistake. And men/ women of SWAT are PERFECT? Trust and beleive, the officer involved has not gotten off anything. He still will have to answer to a higher power than any of us.

Posted by: Former COP | April 5, 2006 10:32 PM

To "Former Cop" First, Dr. Culosi didin't put himself in the world of "under ground" gambling. He made bets among his friends, which I'm sure you, at some point, have done as well. It wasn't until the undercover detective approached him and asked him to make bets with him did he very from this fact. Second, the largest bet made was for $1,500, and that was because the officer was pushing him to make larger bets, and the betting wasn't about criminal earnings it was about doing something fun and challenging. Third, the report said "suspected cocaine" not "cocaine", and there hasn't been a word said about since the night after Dr. Culosi was killed. Fourth, the officer wasn't doing what he was trained to do; training includes knowing that your finger should be straight and resting on the slide. The officer was not falling, or stumbling; remember "HE WAS TIRED!!!!!" BTW- people would have been the wiser if the cop had thrown a gun beside Dr. Culosi. He was a kind, generous, and loving person who now you will never have the pleasure of meeting thanks to Officer Bullock. Dr. Culosi himself had several close friends in law enforcement and is in fact name after his uncle who died in the line of duty for New York State Police. I am not saying that men and women of law enforcement are perfect and not subject to mistakes, but I am saying that it is unjust to the family, friends, and patients of Dr. Culosi that no criminal charges have been brought against Officer Bullock when any other citizen in Fairfax County would have been certainly incarcerated for some degree of manslaughter. Also, If so many law enforcement officials where you come from wouldn't have told the truth, how do you know that the account Officer Bullock gave is the truth? Because we're in a different county people can't lie? Your right I'm not an expert, I'm not an expert at a lot of things. I'm not an expert buthcer, but I know if meat is green and smells rancid it is bad. I am not an expert mechanic, but I know if I start my truck, and a loud bang follows with blue smoke that I will be calling a cab. Just because someone isn't an expert doesn't mean that they do not possess any knowledge about an event.

Posted by: Kyle | April 6, 2006 10:12 AM

How can you say that Officer Bullock should be held accountable, and that he did nothing wrong at the same time. If he did nothing wrong and "did the right thing in a bad situation," what is there to hold him accountable for? No one has said that officers are not allowed to make mistakes, but do you consider KILLING an unarmed man a mistake? Filling wrong paperwork is a mistake. Crashing your cruiser into your supervisor's POV is a mistake. Even, in some cases, arresting the wrong person is a mistake. But KILLING someone. The Culosi's will no longer have their son, and no amount of sorries, sympathies or justice will bring him back. All they can hope for is to make a change so no one else will have to go through what they have. How would you like an officer coming to your door to tell you "Sorry, we killed someone close to you. We feel really bad. It was a mistake because the officer was tired. No harsh feelings though because the officer "did the right thing in a bad situation."" No one will ever really know the truth of what happened that night, because the other side to this story isn't here to tell it.

Posted by: Jen | April 6, 2006 10:23 AM

J. M. Deutch implies that the SWAT unit has a bunch of alcoholics within the ranks. I have heard nothing like that while following the story. Please tell us what you know or are you just trying to fuel a fire?

Posted by: JL | April 14, 2006 2:10 PM

Chris:

If it was your mother, father, brother, sister, or loved one who was "accidentally" shot,

would you think it was worth it?

Could you "accept that some firearm fatalities are the cost of giving guns to police officers." if it was your loved one who was shot?

I'm not related to the Culosis. But it seems very easy to SAY that a few dozen lives are 'worth it,' yet if you had to live it, I bet you would disagree with your first statement that a handful of lives are so easily disposable.

Posted by: Friend | April 17, 2006 4:51 AM

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