Mourners gathered Tuesday at a wake for the Hofstra University student accidentally shot and killed by a police officer, remembering Andrea Rebello as a "treasure to the community" as they wondered if the shooting could have been prevented.
"She was just an overall wonderful young adult going to college, getting ready to start her life, and then this tragedy happens," said family friend Rui Girao.
"This community is heartbroken," said Carol Conklin-Spillane, Rebello's principal at Sleepy Hollow High School.
Maria Sousa of Millbrook said she's known Rebello's father for years and said the family is "beyond devastated.''
Sousa said police should have waited for backup during a standoff with the armed intruder. Anthony Martinato of Tarrytown, a friend of Rebello's, said her death could have been prevented.
Earlier, a police union defended the actions of the officer who accidentally shot Rebello to death, saying police do everything they can to protect as many citizens as possible.
Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver said Tuesday that the officer, described as a 12-year veteran with the department and former NYPD cop, made the right call in entering the home where suspect Dalton Smith was holding hostages.
"If he would have stayed outside and several people were killed inside that house, he would have been criticized for not going into the house," Carver said.
Rebello's godfather, Henrique Santos, has said police should have tried negotiating with the intruder.
Rebello, a Hofstra junior studying public relations, and Smith, 30, were both shot and killed as he was trying to back away from police with a gun to her head, police said.
The officer fired eight rounds, seven of which hit the suspect and one that hit Rebello in the head, police said.
Police said Smith had gotten into the house through a front door that was left open. He forced three women and a man who lived in the home upstairs at gunpoint to get money and jewelry. Smith told one of the women to go withdraw money from the bank, threatening that he would kill one of her friends if she didn't return in eight minutes, according to police.
She called 911 as she drove to the bank and did not return to the home.
Police responded shortly after the 911 call. When they arrived, Smith told one of the hostages, Rebello's twin sister, to go downstairs and tell police everything was OK. When she opened the door, she ran out and told officers there was a man with a gun.
Police said two officers then entered the house and went up a narrow staircase. At that point, one of the officers saw Smith with Rebello in a headlock, and Smith pointed a gun at the officer.
The officer then fired the fatal shots, police said.
The officer, who has not been named, is on sick leave while authorities investigate.
"The officer sends his thoughts and prayers to the victim," Carver said. "He is a religious man and has a strong family background, and he has a lot of support from his family and friends. And that is what he needs right now."
Smith was released on parole in February after serving time for first-degree robbery and has a lengthy criminal record that includes assault, police said. A warrant for his arrest was issued last month for parole violation.
Carver said the parole system should be examined, and questioned why a violent criminal was out on parole.