Teary-eyed mourners descended on the cozy Westchester County village of Sleepy Hollow Wednesday to say their final goodbyes to the Hofstra University student tragically gunned down during a home invasion last week.
Family and friends of Andrea Rebello packed St. Teresa of Avila Church, which sits atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Rebello grew up in the neighboring village of Tarrytown.
A gentle breeze rolled over the hills as mourners sauntered into the church, many too heartbroken to talk. The hearse carrying Rebello’s coffin rolled up to the front of the church as her parents and twin sister, Jessica, emerged under a cloudy sky. Their father wrapped his arm around Jessica as the family slowly walked up the stairs and into the church.
“Andrea was a good student like Jessica,” said father Osvaldo Franklin, speaking before the funeral mass. “She was a good daughter, they came from a good family.”
Franklin administered Rebello’s first communion and remembers her volunteering at the church.
“The family has strong faith,” he said, adding, “this faith will help them in this moment.”
Rebello’s parents and twin sister have yet to publicly speak about her tragic death during an early-morning home invasion at her off campus rental house on Friday.
Dalton Smith, a career criminal and parolee who absconded from parole in February, barged into the California Avenue house around 2:20 a.m., police said, hoping to rob the four Hofstra students inside for money and jewelry.
Rebello and Smith were shot and killed by a Nassau County police officer who felt threatened when Smith pulled his gun on the cop while holding Rebello in a headlock, police said.
The unidentified cop fired eight times, striking Rebello, a public relations major, once in the head. The violent ending to Rebello’s young life has gripped both Hofstra and the Westchester area where she grew up.
“She was always happy, very friendly,” said Carla Correia, a family friend who worked with Rebello’s father. “She was an example for all the kids growing up.”
“She was like half of her sister,” she added while walking toward the church. “They used to be very close to each other.”
Jessica appeared distraught as she made her way out of the funeral, her eyes peering toward the ground as Rebello’s casket returned to the hearse before she was taken to her final resting place in a Sleepy Hollow cemetery. A sea of black streamed out of the church as grim-faced mourners poured out.
“It’s a big loss,” said Correia. “It’s a big question mark why this happened.”
The investigation into the deadly shooting is ongoing. The Nassau County District Attorney’s office is also investigating as it does every police shooting, a spokesman said.
The officer, a father with 12 years on the job, is currently on sick leave and is spending his days with close relatives and friends, officials said. The Nassau police union that represents him said Tuesday that they’re sticking behind their officer, noting that Smith, whose rap sheet dates back 14 years, should be blamed for the incident.
“There’s only person responsible for what happened early Friday morning,” Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James Carver said. “And that’s the ex-con that was on parole and while on parole violated his parole and was still out there to commit more violent crimes as he did the other day.”
As for the Rebello’s, the wound is still deep as they continue to cope with the tragic loss just days before the end of the spring semester.
“We need to pray for the family,” said Franklin.