FBI Weighs Full Probe in Death of Optometrist
Family Had Sought Federal Investigation After Fairfax Declined to Prosecute Officer

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 15, 2006

The FBI has begun a preliminary review of the Fairfax County police shooting of an unarmed optometrist in January, and agents have collected the Fairfax police file and spoken with department officials, authorities said yesterday.

The moves by the FBI in the death of Salvatore J. Culosi on Jan. 24 do not mean the agency has decided to launch a full investigation into the case. That decision will be made after agents consult with prosecutors in the Justice Department, FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman said.

The acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, Joseph Persichini Jr., called the Culosi family yesterday to notify them that the preliminary review was underway, Weierman and the Culosis' attorney said. Agents last week picked up a copy of the police investigation into the shooting and met with Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer and officials from the internal affairs bureau, police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said.

Culosi's parents asked for a federal investigation after the top Fairfax prosecutor decided that no crime was committed when Culosi, 37, was shot outside his Fair Oaks townhouse by a police SWAT officer. That officer, Deval V. Bullock, told investigators he did not mean to shoot Culosi and did not know why he had his finger on the trigger of his .45-caliber handgun.

Police had been investigating Culosi for alleged sports betting. Although Bullock, a 17-year police veteran, was cleared of any criminal charges, he remains the subject of an internal police investigation and is assigned to administrative duties.

On Thursday, Culosi's family criticized the Fairfax police for taking five hours to notify them of the shooting, saying the delay had deprived Culosi, a Roman Catholic, of receiving last rites. Jennings yesterday explained the delay.

Culosi was shot about 9:35 p.m. He was treated by a paramedic at the scene, then taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:07 p.m.

Police visited Culosi's mother, Anita, at her home in Annandale at 2:45 a.m., Jennings said. She said police wanted to make the notification themselves, rather than have a hospital social worker tell the family that there had been an accident and let them race to the hospital.

Police also wanted to be certain what had happened before visiting the Culosis, rather than show up with no information, Jennings said.

"In the family's mind, five hours is a delay," Jennings said. "In our view, it's the time it takes to do an investigation. Five hours is not unreasonable in a case as complicated as this."

Bernard J. DiMuro, the Culosis' attorney, said he understood police wanting to notify the family themselves. "But it strikes me very odd that they would need five hours to determine what happened," DiMuro said. "It was quite clear what happened. He was shot by a police officer."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company