The shooting of a 27-year-old West Babylon man by an off-duty NYPD detective at his home in what authorities initially contended was an attempted burglary may have instead been a tragic mistake, a friend of the victim told The Post.
A drunk Rinaldo Laviolette was trying to open the door of Detective Douglas DeOtto’s West Babylon home on March 5 because he thought it was the pal’s house where he had just been partying, the friend of Laviolette told The Post.
The friend, whose sister was with Laviolette for a 30th birthday celebration in a nearby town Friday night, said the party continued at a home down the block from the officer’s. When Laviolette left around 3:30 a.m., he mistakenly grabbed another guest’s wallet and phone instead of his own and was trying to return them, the friend said.
“When he goes to go back, the houses to him kind of begin to look the same,” the pal said.
He said Laviolette was trying the door at the cop’s house and, finding it locked, banged on it.
“And it turns out to be an off-duty cop who answers the door and sees this kid disoriented and what he thinks is this person trying to break into this house This led to what I understand is an argument,” the friend said.
He said the two tussled and Laviolette was shot in the eye.
Laviolette’s father, also named Rinaldo, said his son lost the vision in his right eye.
“He happened to go to the wrong house. The friend lives three houses down and the house looked similar at night,” the father said and referred further questions to his son’s lawyer, Stephen Flamhaft.
Flamhaft said the incident was still being probed by Suffolk cops and that Laviolette had no criminal record.
He said Laviolette was released from the hospital Thursday and was “doing OK.”
The Suffolk County Police Department would only say Friday that the shooting was still under investigation.
A GoFundMe appeal started by friends of Laviolette to help cover medical expenses had raised more than $22,000 as of Friday.
“We wanted to show him that he is loved and he has all of these people sending all their love,” said Kaela Yee, one of the organizers.
DeOtto, who works in the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, could not be reached for comment. The NYPD said Friday he was still on active duty and would not make him available for an interview.
“After any weapons discharge an appropriate, full, professional non-rumor generating investigation is mandated. This case is no different,” said Paul DiGiacomo, president of the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association.
DeOtto has had two complaints that went to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. One from 2008 about physical force was withdrawn and he was exonerated of another in 2011 involving a frisk, public records show.
New York has a “castle doctrine” that allows the use of deadly force inside a home to stop what is reasonably believed to be a burglary, said Brian Griffin, a Long Island criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor.
Griffin said for police officers that doctrine may also extend outside the home since, even if off-duty, they become police officers if there’s a crime.