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.