Fairfax County, Virginia Faces $12 Million Lawsuit for SWAT Shooting Death of Local Optometrist Dr. Salvatore J. Culosi

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Attorneys DiMuro Ginsberg, P.C. today announced that the family of the late Dr. Salvatore J. Culosi filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking $12 million in damages for improper policies, actions and inactions by the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department that led to the unjust shooting death of their son by a SWAT officer who was in the process of serving what attorneys say should have been a routine documents search warrant. A copy of the complaint is available at: http://www.dimuro.com/resources/Culosi_032007.pdf.

“We fail to understand why the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Chief Rohrer resisted implementing best practice reforms like these to restore the public’s confidence in our police.”

According to court documents, defendants include Fairfax County, Virginia; Fairfax County Police Chief David M. Rohrer; and Fairfax County SWAT Officer Deval V. Bullock, individually and in his official capacity as the police officer who fired the fatal shot through Dr. Culosis heart that killed him.

Plaintiffs assert that there was no just cause to use a SWAT Team to serve a documents warrant on Dr. Culosi, or any reason to believe that Dr. Culosi posed a threat to anyone that would justify shooting or killing him. Notwithstanding repeated requests by the family, defendants have declined to turn over the underlying documents and other information requested by the family to provide a full accounting of what occurred. Family attorneys Bernard DiMuro and Michael Lieberman say this leaves the Culosi family no recourse but to obtain the full facts and justice for their son through court proceedings.

Dr. Culosis family and the Citizens of Fairfax County deserve full transparency and accountability on the policies, people, decisions and circumstances that contributed to their sons senseless death, said Bernard DiMuro, senior partner of DiMuro Ginsberg, P.C. DiMuro continued, When the facts are fully known, we are confident that a jury will agree that Dr. Culosis death was unjustified and will award significant damages that reflect how badly the police and public officials failed Sal, his family and our community.

Dr. Culosi was shot and killed outside of his home on the evening of January 24, 2006 while being served with a documents search warrant. According to police, he was under investigation for allegedly taking sports bets after being solicited by an undercover Detective, David J. Baucom, at a local sports bar.

According to family attorneys, police were aware that Dr. Culosi made his living operating successful optometry practices at two Wal*Marts in Manassas and Warrenton, VA. Attorneys also assert that Police were aware that Dr. Culosi did not own, possess or carry any firearms or other lethal weapons; had no criminal record; had no known reputation or propensity for violence; and had no known incidents of violence in his background. Even so, Fairfax County Police sent a fully armed SWAT team that aggressively moved in at night in a residential community with weapons drawn and pointed at Dr. Culosi for the purpose of forcibly detaining him.

According to court documents, prior to and as the SWAT team moved in, Dr. Culosi was standing outside of his home in plain view, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, socks and no shoes while having a conversation with the undercover detective. He was not aware of what was about to happen, made no threatening statements or moves and did not try to flee as the SWAT team moved in. Yet according to Plaintiffs filing, Officer Bullock intentionally or with reckless disregard, evincing willful and wanton disregard for the safety and rights of Dr. Culosi, put his finger on the trigger of his handgun while it was pointed directly at Dr. Culosi and pulled it causing it to discharge. The bullet hit Dr. Culosi in his upper body with a direct strike to the heart and other internal organs.

The Culosi family seeks to recover damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against the defendants for committing acts under color of law which deprived Dr. Culosi of his rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, the lawsuit seeks damages under Virginia common and statutory law for assault, battery, wrongful death, intentional, reckless, careless, and/or grossly negligent wrongdoing.

Dr. Culosis parents, Salvatore and Anita Culosi, issued the following statement:

Nearly 14 months have passed and there is still no justice for Sal. The series of failures that robbed our son of his life and contributed to his death need to see the light of day.

Sal was a warm, humble, likable, and caring human being loved by family and friends - admired and respected by his patients and anyone who knew him. Sal was a gentleman, intelligent, had a kind-hearted nature, a great sense of humor and at 37, was in the prime of his life.

Our family and the public are entitled to know the truth about what happened to Sal. Our family and the public should have access to the same information that was the basis for Chief Rohrers conclusions cited in his January 11, 2007 report. For example, how did Chief Rohrer conclude that Officer Bullock was not aiming his weapon at [our sons] chest, when at a distance of 20 to 30 feet, Sal was shot through the heart?

We are hopeful that a jury will send a strong message that its time to rethink the response to this tragedy with greater accountability and action. At a minimum, we believe Fairfax County should establish an independent Civilian Review Board; use SWAT teams only when there is a serious threat of harm; require any officer who shoots another person in the line of duty to immediately be given a blood test for alcohol, drugs and steroids; record all SWAT team operations on video tape; and immediately notify the family when death occurs - not five hours later, thereby depriving our son of last rites that would have been provided by his Catholic faith.

We fail to understand why the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Chief Rohrer resisted implementing best practice reforms like these to restore the publics confidence in our police.

As painful as it will be, our family must learn the truth and hopes that a jury will hold the defendants accountable for their unconscionable disregard for our sons life, his rights and the rights of all Fairfax County citizens. We ask the community to continue to visit our website (www.justiceforsal.com) and to keep our family and especially Sal in your thoughts and prayers.

About DiMuro Ginsberg, P.C.

DiMuro Ginsberg is a boutique litigation firm located in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm's practice focuses primarily on general and complex civil litigation in the areas of corporate & commercial law, business torts, criminal law, employment & labor law, and professional liability & ethics. For more information: www.dimuro.com.


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