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For His Own Good

The government claims that it is important to crack down on gambling because people who gamble might do themselves financial harm.  Of course, just like the teenager who is thrown in jail because it is better for him than smoking marijuana, so goes the case of Salvatore Culosi:

… Salvatore Culosi … was a 37-year old optometrist in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Virginia. According to friends, Culosi was a wealthy, self-made man. He was easygoing and friendly, a guy who enjoyed his success.

He was also a small-time gambler. Culosi and his friends regularly met at bars in the area to watch sports, and frequently wagered on the outcomes of games. The wagers weren’t insignificant — $50, $100, sometimes more on a given afternoon. But the small circle of friends also had the means to back up their wagers. No one was betting the mortgage, here…

Fairfax police detective David J. Baucom met Culosi in a bar one evening last October, befriended him, and was soon making wagers himself… Baucom began upping the ante, encouraging Culosi to wager larger sums than what the friends were used to…

Baucom eventually encouraged Culosi to wager at least $2,000 in a single day, the lower threshold under which Culosi could be charged under state law with “conducting an illegal gambling operation.” On January 24 of this year, Detective Baucom assembled the Fairfax County SWAT team, and marched off to Culosi’s home to arrest him.

According to press accounts, police affidavits, and the resulting investigation by the Fairfax prosecutor’s office, Baucom called Culosi that evening, and told him he’d be by to collect his winnings. With the SWAT team at the ready just behind him, Baucom waited outside Culosi’s home in an SUV. As Culosi emerged from the doorway, clad only in a t-shirt and jeans, SWAT officer Deval Bullock’s finger apparently slipped to the trigger of his Heckler & Koch MP5 semiautomatic weapon, already aimed at the unarmed Culosi.

The gun fired, releasing a bullet that entered Culosi’s side, then ripped through his chest and struck his heart, killing him instantly.

Posted on July 3, 2008 at 09:49 AM | Permalink

Comments

Holy Shit...

I wasn't expecting that. I am speechless...

Posted by: Esox Lucius | Jul 3, 2008 10:05:14 AM

That is sickening.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 3, 2008 10:59:12 AM

By the way, this is old news. It didn't happen this year. It happened in 2006. Still a very disturbing story.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 3, 2008 11:01:35 AM

The officer who accidentally fired the shot, by the way, was suspended without pay for several weeks and taken off of SWAT duty. Apparently the door of his squad car hit him as he exited the car, causing his finger to accidentally pull the trigger. That's the story, anyway.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 3, 2008 11:05:41 AM

This is the one case in which I would be very much in favor of a major wrongful death lawsuit against the police department. There was a case recently in Colorado in which four older gentlemen were arrested for running an illegal gambling operation, because they took 5% of the nightly pot to buy snacks and beer for the group, which counts as the house taking a cut! Luckily, no one was killed when they were broken up.

Posted by: EconStudent | Jul 3, 2008 11:55:43 AM

Why did the police need a swat team to arrest a guy this way? I think a phone call asking him to come down to the station would undoubtedly have worked. All police aren't idiots but it sounds like these got their training by watching TV. Anyway, betting $2,000 with a friend is a crime? I'll be sure and limit my bets to $1,999.99 next time.

Posted by: Rocky Mountain | Jul 3, 2008 11:57:27 AM

Why did the police need a swat team to arrest a guy this way? I think a phone call asking him to come down to the station would undoubtedly have worked. All police aren't idiots but it sounds like these got their training by watching TV. Anyway, betting $2,000 with a friend is a crime? I'll be sure and limit my bets to $1,999.99 next time.

Posted by: Rocky Mountain | Jul 3, 2008 11:58:05 AM

Did these cops train in Waco?

Posted by: Mike Geitner | Jul 3, 2008 12:25:57 PM

Did these cops train in Waco?

Posted by: Mike Geitner | Jul 3, 2008 12:26:16 PM

Did these cops train in Waco?

Posted by: Mike Geitner | Jul 3, 2008 12:26:36 PM

Did these cops train in Waco?

Posted by: Mike Geitner | Jul 3, 2008 12:26:49 PM

A SWAT team, what the hell? Wouldn't you think two police officers could bring this guy in? At most four. Probably without MP5s or APCs, even.

Posted by: Josh | Jul 3, 2008 12:46:33 PM

I am certain there is much more to this story than we have read. Why would a police department spend so much time and effort to nail an optometrist on a private gambling charge? I suspect the optometrist got on some powerful or well-connected person's shit list, and the person used his connections to start an investigation. I also suspect that the use of a full SWAT team was designed to punish and frighten the optometrist. Another possible explanation is more evil.

All gun safety training programs tell you to not point your gun at something unless you intend to shoot it. Much worse is to point your gun and put your finger in the trigger guard. It's hard for me to believe a trained policeman, in a non-life-threatening situation, would do both while exiting a vehicle. The more evil explanation was that the shooting was a hit. Perhaps the entire investigation, entrapment, and SWAT team arrest was cover for a murder.

Posted by: Dr. T | Jul 3, 2008 5:49:26 PM

Hi all... I knew Dr. Culosi, and believe me, he was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. I don't believe for a moment that it was a "hit", Dr. Culosi was too nice to have ever irritated anyone that much. Unfortunately, it was an over use of force... poor training, and I believe, criminal negligence. That doesn’t mean I think the SWAT cop is a bad guy… I’m a supporter of the police; I think they have a hard job. But I think in the long run, the cop that shot him would be better off if he had been prosecuted… now he has to live the rest of his life feeling as though he has gotten away with murder. If he had been punished properly, he would be able to move on with his life, and come to terms with his horrible mistake. My friend Sal is gone, I can’t change that… but we all remain in danger until we stop covering up mistakes on the part of the police force.

Caby Smith
csmith@exhibitimaging.com

Posted by: Caby Smith | Jul 4, 2008 12:12:47 PM

Great post, Caby, and I agree with every word. Sorry you lost your friend.

Posted by: Dan | Jul 4, 2008 8:12:13 PM

I believe Radley Balko at theagitator.com has covered this case in detail.

Posted by: ddbb | Jul 7, 2008 8:24:01 AM

There has been no resoultion to date...

We are waiting for the court to get back to us... since Dec. 14, 2007...and are told it is inappropriate...to ask the court...why it is taking the time that it is.

While we are pursuing the legal system...as our only recourse...I know in the end...we all will stand before God...and be accountable to Him. May He show those responsible...for the unjust treatment...and killing of my son...the mercy that Sal...and my family in my son's behalf...are thus far being denied.

A human life...my son's life...is and was a gift from God...unique...irreplaceable...fragile...and priceless.

I visit my son's resting place weekly...we are all heartbroken...my family is not...and can never be the same...and we all miss Sal...and grieve for him...one day at a time...and moment to moment. He was and is very loved.

Please keep our family...and our Salvatore...in your thoughts and prayers...as we continue to seek the justice owed to him.

God bless those of you who recognize the injustice of what was done.

Posted by: Mrs. C | Jul 8, 2008 12:30:31 PM

This is nice to know about the people who were very cruel and they should very careful about things while purchasing the guns.
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aslinsibel

widecircles

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Kevin Smith.

widecircles

Posted by: Kevin Smith | Aug 29, 2008 7:45:06 AM

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