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Officer Won't Face Charges in Shooting Death

Attorneys for and the family of Northern Virginia Optometrist Salvatore J. Culosi held a press conference to react to news that Commonwealth Attorney Robert Horan will not bring charges against the officer who shot Dr. Culosi.
Attorneys for and the family of Northern Virginia Optometrist Salvatore J. Culosi held a press conference to react to news that Commonwealth Attorney Robert Horan will not bring charges against the officer who shot Dr. Culosi. (Susan Biddle - The Washington Post)

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 23, 2006; 5:24 PM

The Fairfax County police officer who shot an unarmed man to death in January will not be charged with a crime, the county's chief prosecutor announced this afternoon.

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From the start, Fairfax police declared that the killing of Salvatore J. Culosi Jr., 37, was an accident and that the SWAT officer who fired had done so unintentionally. Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said that when a person fires a gun without malice and unintentionally kills someone, "they do not commit a crime."

"I feel for the family of the victim in this case," Horan said. "You have to. But I also feel for the police officer. This is a good police officer. Fine record, almost 17 years. He's as shattered by this as any good police officer should be."

Police had been investigating whether Culosi, an optometrist with offices in Manassas and Warrenton, was a sports bookmaker. An undercover officer had been placing bets with Culosi for nearly four months and arrived outside Culosi's townhouse in the Fair Lakes area on Jan. 24 to collect $1,500 in winnings, Horan said.

Culosi stood next to the officer's car, on the passenger side, when the officer gave the sign for SWAT officers to move in. Two SWAT officers headed toward the car, one to arrest Culosi and one to protect the officer, Horan said.

The officer involved, a 17-year veteran with long tactical experience, pulled up in a car behind the undercover officer's. "As the officer came out," Horan said, "he was bringing his weapon up. In the course of bringing his weapon up, it discharged. He has no real explanation how."

The officer's name was not released.

Horan said the officer shouted "Police!" at Culosi. "Right after 'Police!'" Horan said, "it went pow."

Culosi was killed almost instantly. Horan said the bullet entered Culosi's left side, traveled through his body and was recovered on his right side.

Horan said the officer was aware that he should not have had a finger on the trigger and that he should not have had his .45-caliber H&K handgun pointed at anyone. "As he [the officer] says, you keep your finger straight," Horan said. "He felt his finger was straight. . . . But obviously his finger is not straight up. His finger has to be on the trigger."

Horan said the officer's gun was tested and was not at fault. He said the gun had a standard trigger pull and was only modified to add a flashlight on the barrel, but the flashlight was not in use.

Culosi's family was planning a news conference for later today to respond to Horan's announcement. His decision not to pursue criminal charges does not affect any possible civil lawsuit the family might file.


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