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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)

The officer, originally placed on leave with pay, was returned to work in an administrative job a couple of days after the shooting, police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said. Police said they will now resume their internal investigation of the officer; they were prevented from interviewing him while the criminal probe was pending.

Horan said the accident "could have been based on the number of hours the officer was awake that day." He said the officer had started working at 5 a.m., overseeing a managed deer hunt in the Great Falls area aimed at thinning deer overpopulation. Horan said the officer went home at noon that day, then returned to work at 8 p.m.

Culosi was shot behind his townhouse on Cavalier Landing Court, just off Lee Highway, at 9:35 p.m. A medical technician who accompanied the SWAT officers worked on Culosi, and he was taken to nearby Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Horan held a news conference to announce his decision at Fairfax police headquarters, but police officials did not speak, and Chief David M. Rohrer was not present. Police said the criminal decision was solely Horan's to discuss. Horan declined to weigh in on what discipline, if any, he thought Rohrer should impose on the officer.

Jennings said police are continuing to review their policies on the use of force and also on the use of SWAT teams in serving search warrants. Horan said he thought the use of SWAT teams by Fairfax police was appropriate.

Horan said he did not know if Culosi was involved in an organized gambling operation, but said Culosi had at least one "lay off man," or another person to accept bets. He said police removed $40,000 cash from Culosi's townhouse. "He wasn't a kingpin," Horan said.

In his letter clearing the officer, Horan said that even if a weapon is discharged carelessly and negligently, there is no crime if it is done without malice. "At best, the evidence in this case does not approach criminal negligence," Horan wrote, "which, as you know, is a much higher standard. The shooting was clearly unintentional, was without malice, and was not a criminal act."

The veteran prosecutor said his test in deciding whether to file charges was whether there was enough evidence to convince a jury to vote guilty. "In this case, that evidence is just not there," Horan said.

Horan said he "felt bad" about taking two months to decide whether to file charges. "But unfortunately, we did not have the forensic evidence complete. The report of autopsy was not completed until March 16, and I got it on March 17," Horan said.


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