Fairfax Police Say Shooting Was Accident

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fairfax County's police chief said yesterday that one of his officers accidentally shot and killed an optometrist outside the unarmed man's townhouse Tuesday night as an undercover detective was about to arrest him on suspicion of gambling on sports.

Police had been secretly making bets with Salvatore J. Culosi Jr., 37, since October as part of a gambling investigation, according to court records. They planned to search his home in the Fair Oaks area, just off Lee Highway, shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Culosi came out of his townhouse on Cavalier Landing Court about 9:35 p.m. and was standing next to the detective's sport-utility vehicle, police said, when the detective gave a signal to tactical officers assembled nearby to move in and arrest Culosi.

"As they approached him . . . one officer's weapon, a handgun, was unintentionally discharged," said Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer.

Culosi was not making any threatening moves when he was shot once in the upper part of his body, police said. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The last fatal police shooting in Fairfax was in September 2000, when an officer killed a man threatening him with a woodcutting tool.

"On behalf of the Fairfax County Police Department and myself, I wish to express our condolences and our sincere sympathy to Mr. Culosi's family and friends," Rohrer said. He declined to answer questions after making the statement.

Police departments generally do not accept responsibility for an officer-involved shooting before an investigation is completed.

Culosi's family in Annandale was grief-stricken and declined to be interviewed. Culosi's older sister, Constance Culosi Gulley, issued a statement saying that her brother was "a respected local businessman and doctor with his whole life ahead of him and didn't deserve to have his life end this way."

Culosi grew up just off Annandale Road, graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School and the University of Virginia, then attended the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis and became a doctor of optometry. He opened practices in Manassas and Warrenton that are attached to Wal-Mart stores.

The officer, a 17-year veteran assigned to the police tactical unit, was not identified. He was placed on leave with pay while police conduct both an internal administrative investigation and a criminal investigation. Rohrer also expressed support for the officer, calling him a valued veteran of the department.

Lt. Richard Perez, a police spokesman, said he could not say how or why the gun discharged.

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