Last year on January 24, 2006, our son, Dr. Salvatore J. Culosi was shot and killed by a member of the Fairfax County, Virginia Police SWAT Team while being served with what should have been a routine documents search warrant. Over a year has passed and despite all our efforts, the county continues to refuse to answer our questions. This leaves us no recourse but to pursue truth and accountability through the courts.
Today our attorneys filed a lawsuit against Fairfax County, Police Chief David M. Rohrer and SWAT Officer Deval V. Bullock seeking $12 million damages for improper policies, actions and inactions by the Fairfax County Police Department that led to the unjust shooting death of our son. A copy of the lawsuit is available here and you can also read about it in the statement issued by our attorneys.
How did we get here? Over the last year, our family has tried repeatedly to find out what happened to Sal. We want access to the same information that was available to Commonwealth Attorney Robert Horan, Jr. when he elected not to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against Officer Deval V. Bullock or present the facts to a grand jury to make a determination. We want access to the same information that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is privy to. We want access to the same information available to Chief Rohrer and the Fairfax County Police Internal Affairs Division. We want access to the same information the FBI and the Department of Justice are currently evaluating. Yet despite repeated requests to Fairfax County officials, our family has been denied access to the truth.
Left with no alternative, in early January we sent a “letter of demand” to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors stating our intention to file suit as required by Virginia law. At that point, it was our hope to have meaningful discussions with the county that would keep us out of court. We wanted access to all the information available to the county on what happened to Sal. From that, we hoped to propose - and that Fairfax County Police would adopt - policy changes that would leave a positive legacy from such a senseless tragedy, and would provide the public assurance that adequate preventative steps had been taken so that what happened to Sal, would never happen again to another Fairfax County citizen.
Among the policy changes, we would like to see the establishment of an independent Civilian Review Board; a policy to use SWAT teams only when there is a serious threat of harm; a requirement that any officer who shoots another person in the line of duty immediately be given a blood test for alcohol, drugs and steroids; a policy to record all SWAT team operations on video tape and a policy to immediately notify the family when death occurs - not five hours later, thereby depriving Sal of last rites that would have been provided by his Catholic faith. These are common sense policies, many of which are in place in other communities around the country. Fairfax County should support these same best practices.
But it’s hard to know if these policies are enough without access to the truth and that’s where we came to an impasse. Although the County knows that in good conscience we could never reach any settlement without knowing what happened to our son, the County refused to make that information fully available to us pre-litigation.
Time and again since October of last year, we have not updated this site with the exception of Sal’s Birthday on December 17th, as a courtesy to the County. We waited for one reason or another to get some news from any source that could provide it…we read whatever you read. Throughout January, we also waited in vain while giving the county and the FCPD the time they invariably said they needed to address each of the earlier and more recent requests we made of them including access to the same information that was the basis for Chief Rohrer’s conclusions cited in his January 11, 2007 report. It is clear at this point after all our efforts that the County has no intention of being forthcoming leaving us no recourse but to file suit.
Today we filed suit and our hope is that a jury will hold Fairfax County, Chief Rohrer and Officer Bullock accountable for their unconscionable disregard for Sal’s life, his rights and, by inference, the rights of all Fairfax County citizens. While a jury cannot prescribe policy changes as part of a verdict, they can send a strong message to Fairfax County that they are accountable for their actions and no longer can afford to ignore their fiduciary obligation to provide meaningful oversight over the police department.
We intend to keep a promise made to our beloved son, Salvatore, more than one year ago as we knelt before him on Jan. 30th, the day he was laid to rest and the last time we would be able to kiss him and whisper in his ear…that we will look into those faces that wrongfully robbed him of his future, in such a violent, unnecessary way… costing him and us his life… and we will seek the justice he is owed by them for what they did.
This blog will be used to share the truth with the Citizens of Fairfax County on what happened to our son. At the appropriate times, we will post what we learn and when county officials refuse to honor our inquiries, we will share that too. Armed with the truth, we hope the Citizens of Fairfax County will demand comprehensive police policy reforms that guarantee transparency, accountability and preventative changes to ensure that what happened to Sal and our family, never again happens to any other Fairfax County citizen. Only then will there be Justice for Sal and Justice for all County Citizens.
Please dear friends, continue to monitor this site and support us with your prayers…we deeply appreciate your being there for us in this long and arduous process.
God Bless You.
Sal & Anita