Family Says Delay Cost Victim His Last Rites

Salvatore Culosi's mother, Anita, is comforted by family friend Bobby Dias at a news conference. Anita Culosi is angry about records showing that several hours elapsed before her family was told her son had been shot by an officer.
Salvatore Culosi's mother, Anita, is comforted by family friend Bobby Dias at a news conference. Anita Culosi is angry about records showing that several hours elapsed before her family was told her son had been shot by an officer. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

After shooting an unarmed man to death, Fairfax County police waited nearly five hours before notifying the man's family, preventing the Roman Catholic victim from receiving last rites, his relatives said yesterday.

Friends and family of Salvatore J. Culosi, 37, also said they had received phone calls in recent days from the detective who was investigating Culosi for alleged sports betting, questioning them about Culosi's gambling nearly three months after his death.

The family members also expressed frustration that their request for a federal investigation has not been acknowledged by the FBI, and that Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer has not issued a timeline for a decision on what will happen to the SWAT officer who shot and killed Culosi on Jan. 24 outside his Fair Oaks townhouse.

"They killed my brother Sal," said Culosi's sister, Constance Gulley, and "denied our family access to him and denied him access to his religious rights. The police not only fired the shots, they are calling all of the shots."

Fairfax police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said she did not know why police did not contact Culosi's parents until 2:20 a.m., nearly five hours after Culosi was shot. Culosi died immediately, but his family said last rites could have been given within a short time of his death.

The SWAT officer, Deval V. Bullock, 40, told investigators he fired his .45-caliber pistol accidentally, and Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. (D) decided last month not to charge him.

The police internal affairs bureau began an investigation of Bullock after the criminal case was closed. Jennings said yesterday that police would reveal the results of the investigation, including any discipline meted out against the officer.

But Jennings said there was no set time frame for when that would occur. The internal review includes several stages, and the officer can appeal any disciplinary action taken. Jennings said police would not officially reveal the officer's name, which has been disclosed by numerous sources familiar with the investigation. A letter from the county attorney's office to the Culosis' lawyer yesterday said the internal investigation was completed but was "under review."

Culosi was being investigated by Detective David J. Baucom, 35, an undercover officer in the department's organized crime division, which handles vice crimes such as drugs, gambling and prostitution. Baucom has been on the force for 11 years and has handled numerous gambling and drug cases in recent years, court records show.

After meeting Culosi at a bar in Fairfax City in mid-October, Baucom began placing bets on National Football League games with him by phone, according to an affidavit Baucom wrote the day of the shooting. Baucom recounted making more than $28,000 in bets over the next three months and meeting with Culosi every few weeks either to pay a debt or to collect winnings. By mid-January, according to Baucom's affidavit, the officer had lost $5,500 of taxpayers' money to Culosi.

On the evening of the shooting, police said, Baucom went to pick up some winnings from Culosi while SWAT officers waited out of sight. Culosi handed over $1,500, Horan said, and Baucom signaled the officers. Bullock and one other SWAT officer approached, and Culosi was fatally shot in the side, Horan said.

Police searched Culosi's townhouse. Horan said they found $40,000 in cash and a small amount of cocaine. "He doesn't look like a kingpin," he said.

Meanwhile, Baucom has resumed his investigation. This week, he called Culosi's brother-in-law, Steve Gulley, to ask, "How much are you into Sal for?" -- meaning, how much money did he owe Culosi.

Gulley said he had never made bets with Culosi and was offended by the accusation. "There's no valid reason for them to be investigating him, since he's dead," Gulley said. He said the detective did not appear to know that Gulley was related to Culosi and told him, "I must have the wrong Steve."

Gulley said it appeared police were "trying to intimidate people" who may assist Culosi's family in a civil suit against the county.

Baucom did not return a phone call yesterday. Jennings said, "It's an ongoing investigation into organized crime and gambling. Organized, by its very nature, means more than one."

Culosi's friends acknowledge he was a gambler, but they deny he was a bookmaker. They said Baucom has used Culosi's cellphone and computer to locate people he suspected of betting with Culosi. Scott Lunceford, a lifelong friend of Culosi's, said Baucom accused him of being a bettor, which Lunceford strongly denied. Other Culosi friends said they had similar conversations.

Culosi's mother, Anita Culosi, was outraged after receiving records from Inova Fair Oaks Hospital that showed that a social worker was ready to contact the family after her son was brought in. Salvatore Culosi had been at the hospital previously, and his contacts were on file there.

"We're human beings. We should have enough respect for human life and its soul, when something horrendous like this happens, to notify the family," Anita Culosi said, sobbing. She said that by the time homicide detectives arrived at her house and then began calling to locate a priest, they were told it was too late to administer last rites.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company