Police & Fire

File photo

Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Smithtown early this morning, Dec. 14.

Cynthia Wilson was driving a 2007 Nissan Altima northbound on Terry Road when her vehicle struck a 2012 Honda Accord traveling eastbound on Jericho Turnpike at approximately 1 a.m. The collision caused the Nissan to crash into a building, located at 305 Jericho Turnpike.

Wilson, 22, of Brentwood, was transported by Smithtown Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Honda, Carol Katz, 55, of Dix Hills, was transported by Smithtown Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital with minor injuries.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the crash. The Smithtown building inspector was called to the scene to assess damage to the structure. Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

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The Dodge pickup used by two people who stole two BOSS snow plows from Island Aire, Photo from Suffolk County Crime Stoppers

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and 6th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two people who allegedly stole snow plows from a business in Setauket in November. Two people stole two BOSS snow plows from Island Aire, located at 17 North Belle Mead Road, Nov. 14. The suspects were in a white Dodge pickup with no front license plate, black rims, a black bed cover, amber lights lining the roof and windshield and damage to the passenger side rear wheel well.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 7th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl.

Heather Lee and her daughter, Willow Lee, were walking westbound and crossing a parking lot entrance on the north side of Route 25 when they were struck by a Suffolk County Transit bus at approximately 6:55 p.m. The bus had been traveling eastbound on Route 25 when the bus driver made a left into a parking lot, located at 1175 Middle Country Road in Middle Island, when the crash occurred.

Lee, 27, and Willow, 4, of Shoreham, were both transported by Middle Island Rescue to Stony Brook University Hospital. Willow suffered head trauma and is in serious condition. The girl’s mother suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver, Thomas Lowitt, 63, of Islip, was not injured.

Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section officers responded and conducted a safety check on the bus. The investigation is ongoing.

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Suffolk County Police arrested a Bay Shore man Nov. 27 following a motor vehicle crash that killed one man and seriously injured two others in Hauppauge early this morning.

Fernando Ramirez Jr. was driving a 2008 Subaru eastbound on Express Drive South when his vehicle struck a 1997 Ford pickup at the service road’s intersection with Route 111 at approximately 3:20 a.m. The vehicles then collided with a 2004 Infiniti that was traveling northbound on Route 111.

An occupant of the Ford, Daniel Granados, 31, of Islip, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner. The registered owner of the Ford, Richard Fischer, 32, of Dix Hills, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver of the Infiniti, Anthony Bermudez, 26, of Brentwood, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore for treatment of minor injuries.

Ramirez Jr., 30, was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Ramirez was admitted to Southside Hospital for treatment of serious injuries and will be arraigned at a later date.

All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

Members of Miller Place Fire Department, EMS volunteers and community members come together at Stop & Shop in Miller Place to raise donations for those in need this holiday season. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Local families in need have a group of Miller Place volunteers, generous strangers and a big red bus to be thankful for this holiday season.

Cold, windy weather did nothing to stop Miller Place Fire Department members from gathering outside Stop & Shop at 385 Route 25A for five hours last weekend. In fact, the dozen volunteer EMS members, engine company officers and firefighters were all smiles as they collected 800 pounds of nonperishable items from passing shoppers, whose contributions were packed into a fire department bus and dropped off to St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach the next morning.

Former Miller Place captain of EMS
Debi Rasweiler, on left, collects
donations. Photo by Kevin Redding

Canned food, condiments, paper towels and much more stock the shelves at the church’s food pantry for Miller Place, Sound Beach and Mount Sinai families struggling to make ends meet. The donations will help them have a proper Thanksgiving.

“The outpouring is always incredible — people here are just amazing,” said Debi Rasweiler, a former captain of EMS at the fire department and organizer of the 7th annual EMS Stuff-A-Bus Nov. 17, which ran from 3 to 8 p.m. “Last year we stuffed the bus from floor to ceiling, rear to front. It just grows every year.”

During the event, shoppers on their way into the supermarket were handed a list of items needed for the pantry — including pasta, dry cereal, canned vegetables, soaps and toothpaste — and asked to donate if possible. It didn’t take long before residents wheeled their carts over to the bus to chip in. Some dropped off one or two items while others outdid themselves, handing over full bags of groceries and cash.

“I just think we all have to give back,” said Shoreham resident Peggy Debus, who donated peanut butter, jelly and cereal. “When people stop giving back, the world gets very bad.”

John Barile from Mount Sinai, who handed over paper towels, said he takes any opportunity he can to help others who need it.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems,” Barile said.

“If everybody gave something, we would never have any problems.”

John Barile

When asked what inspired her to donate multiple items, another shopper simply said, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Stephen Rasweiler, Debi’s husband and a lifelong volunteer firefighter, voiced his appreciation for the community as he held up a donated bag of yams and turkey stuffing.

“This is somebody’s Thanksgiving dinner just in one bag,” he said, beaming. “This time of year is very stressful, the economy’s tough for a lot of families and we know we’re helping a lot of people. It’s sad that this is needed but it’s been a great department and community effort.”

It was the Rasweiler’s daughter Jessica who initially brought Stuff-A-Bus to the community seven years ago after being involved in a similar event with her sorority at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. When she came home from college, and joined the fire department as an EMT, Rasweiler was determined to adopt the donate-and-transport event.

She got local businesses to sponsor it and went door-to-door from Setauket to Wading River to spread the word. As a full-time nurse at St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown, she was unable to be at this year’s event, but said over the phone that the event’s continued success makes her heart smile.

“I wanted to do more for the community,” she said. “I knew we could do something greater than just wait for the whistle to blow for any kind of call that we get at the fire department. I just can’t believe it and it’s amazing the community has just latched onto it. It’s a very special event.”

For Bobby Chmiel, 2nd Lieutenant of EMS, the Stuff-A-Bus is a highlight every year.

St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator Jane
Guido shows off her new inventory as a result of the
annual Stuff-A-Bus event. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s not just residents helping people, it’s helping people they might know,” he said. “They could be your friends or neighbors. The community in Miller Place and Sound Beach will unite around a common cause. When it’s one of our own that needs help, especially during the holiday season, we’re there.”

On Nov. 18, the big red bus delivered its boxes upon boxes of items to the church. The various foods were stacked into the church’s pantries and will be given out to families, many of whom the church takes care of year-round.

“It’s a blessing and I can’t thank them enough,” said Jane Guido, St. Louis de Montfort’s outreach coordinator. “The families are very appreciative because a lot of them wouldn’t’ be able to put that kind of spread on their table for a holiday. It’s just too costly. People are so generous — we get plenty of stuff that holds us through the year — without their help, our pantry would be bare.”

After all the boxes were brought inside, Debi Rasweiler announced that on top of the food, one resident who asked to be anonymous donated $1,400 worth of Visa gift cards.

“It was a single parent who had been needy for a long time,” Rasweiler said.

An emotional Guido hugged her.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you everybody,” Guido said.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

A cesspool installation at a home in Shoreham Nov. 18 ended with a tragedy.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating an incident during which Kurt Peiscopgrau, 60, of Northport, was killed after he became trapped underground during the installation of a cesspool on Josephine Boulevard in Shoreham, according to police.

A crew was installing the cesspool at the home when the ground gave way trapping Peiscopgrau at about 11:25 a.m.  Peiscopgrau’s body was recovered by Emergency Service Section police officers at 3:15 p.m.

Emergency Service Section officers were assisted in the recovery by members of the Rocky Point, Hagerman, and Brookhaven National Lab Fire Departments as well as several additional fire departments and employees of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified.

Centereach Fire Department teamed up with Operation Christmas Child to collect shoeboxes filled with gifts to be donated to needy children. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

It wasn’t quite Santa’s sleigh, but it was large, red and carried presents, so an ambulance was good enough for the Selden Fire Department, which took over Santa’s duties last week and stuffed 100 shoeboxes with gifts for poor young children all over the world.

Volunteers help fill a Selden Fire Department
ambulance with shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Most of these boxes are going to go to kids who never even get a gift,” Selden Fire Department Treasurer Vincent Ammirati said. “This is something that will put a smile on a face, and this is the fire department — everything we do here is for other people. All we do is try put a smile on people’s faces.”

The shoeboxes were collected as part of Operation Christmas Child, a function of the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. The organization takes the shoeboxes from drop-off points in local churches before sending them to distribution centers that will ship them to poor communities in Africa, South America, Asia and others. The shoeboxes are labeled by age and gender, and usually contain toys like inflatable soccer balls or stuffed animals, but mostly they contain hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes along with school supplies like books and pencils.

All seven companies within the Selden Fire Department helped contribute to the stack, with some companies acting as a group and other members of the fire department contributing indipendently.

Children in Uganda receive shoeboxes of gifts from
Operation Christmas Child last year. Photo from
Danielle McCarthy

Volunteer firefighter and Operation Christmas Child Long Island Coordinator Danielle McCarthy headed the fire department’s collection drive. She said she got the idea of filling an ambulance full of shoeboxes from watching the Los Angeles Police Department and how a funeral home had pulled in with a hearse full of shoe boxes.

McCarthy has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for more than a decade, first packing boxes before becoming a local packing leader, and then area coordinator. In 2012 McCarthy travelled to Uganda to help hand out shoeboxes.

“As we put shoe boxes into their hands and they opened up those boxes I saw their delight,” she said. “To look at them having physical needs met, to be able to see the joy that came to them from these simple things like school supplies and toys and that sort of thing, that impacted me. But what really impacted me even more, and what keeps me packing shoeboxes, were all the kids standing outside the place who didn’t get shoeboxes because there wasn’t enough to give to everybody.”

Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child were collected with gifts to be
donated to needy children.
Photo by Kyle Barr

Every box also comes with a picture book called “The Greatest Gift,” put inside after each is packed. The book depicts a number of biblical stories told in that country’s native language. There was a $9 fee for every package, which pays for both the book and shipping costs. The fire department pulled together $900 to go toward this cost.

“Every one of these shoeboxes to us is not just a gift that we’re giving to a child, but around Christmas time Jesus is a gift we try to give, too,” said Victor Rossomano, an Operation Christmas Child Suffolk County-area coordinator. “It’s in their language and their culture. We try to keep it within their culture; we try not to send America to them, we want them to be who they are.”

Ammirati helped McCarthy drive the shoeboxes to the drop-off point at the Grace Gospel Church in Patchogue. He said he plans on using his officer status with the Suffolk County Volunteer Fireman’s Association to try and spread the idea out to all the different fire departments in the county.

“It’s a great way to show our community presence with the fire department and also for Operation Christmas Child,” McCarthy said. “It’s taken a few years to get this rolling, but when we challenged the fire department to fill the ambulance, as you can see, the guys stepped up.”

The 100 boxes kicked off national collection week, which ran from Nov. 13 to 20. In 2009, Suffolk County gathered 7,100 boxes, but the number has grown. The group is hoping to have 20,000 boxes packed this year

File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested two people as a result of a month long investigation at businesses located within the 4th Precinct. Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which nine businesses were checked for compliance with the law in Commack, Smithtown, Kings Park and East Northport, according to police.

The following clerks were arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor after they sold alcohol to a minor.

  • Thomas Watson, 22, of Northport, employed at Speedway gas station, located at 152 East Northport Road, Kings Park
  • A 16 year-old male juvenile, employed at BP gas station located at 94 Pulaski Road, Kings Park.

The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Shell gas station, located at 700 Commack Road, Commack
  • BP gas station, located at 621 Commack Road, Commack
  • Citgo gas station, located at 100 Crooked Hill Road, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 2104 Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 38 Indian Head Road, Kings Park
  • Mobil gas station, located at 819 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
  • BP gas station, located at 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

Watson and the juvenile were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to appear in First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 2, 2018. The State Liquor Authority is conducting a follow up investigation.

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco was honored for his impact surrounding gang violence and rehabilitation during Council For Unity’s annual Champions for Children Gala Nov. 9. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

In 2006, a year after he was elected Suffolk County sheriff, Vincent DeMarco took a huge risk. In an effort to reduce gang violence in the Riverhead correctional facility, DeMarco brought a seemingly ill-fated program into the jail where rival gang leaders and members — Bloods, Crips, MS-13, Latin Kings and Aryan Brotherhood — gather in a room to share stories, make peace and help one another escape a life of crime. In doing so, Riverhead became the first county jail in the nation to embrace Council for Unity, a nonprofit founded in Brooklyn in 1975 to keep gang activities out of schools and communities and replace a culture of despair with a culture of hope. The newly-appointed sheriff’s gamble quickly paid off.

Robert DeSena, Vincent DeMarco, Alex Bryan and Butch Langhorn were recognized for their work. Photo by Kevin Redding

In a matter of months, DeMarco and correctional facility members watched the entire jail system turn around, as inmates who came to the prison as enemies began to form friendships through their similar experiences. The men, many of whom are imprisoned for violent behavior and drug dealing, find careers after they’ve served their sentences thanks to job and education opportunities offered in the program.

Inmate population and the rate of recidivism at Riverhead are now at an all-time low and the jail serves as a model for other correctional facilities statewide. The Riverhead Police Department has since developed its own companion anti-gang program with the organization.

“DeMarco has changed the dynamic in that facility and has created hope for inmates who live without hope,” said Robert DeSena, president and founder of Council For Unity, who met with DeMarco and his staff to pitch the radical concept in February 2006. “He has a tremendous social conscience and his perception of incarcerated people is atypical. He saw they had the capacity to be reclaimed and he went with it.”

DeSena and others involved in the program, including ex-gang members, honored DeMarco for his significant impact surrounding these criminals’ rehabilitation during Council For Unity’s annual Champions for Children Gala at the Garden City Hotel Nov. 9.

“I had this smirk on my face as if to say to ‘this guy is nuts. You’re going to get Crips and everybody together Kumbaya-ing? That’s not happening here. But Sheriff DeMarco is somebody who’s willing to take a chance. And let me tell you, it was worth a chance. I love this man.”

— Butch Langhorn

The annual event aims to celebrate public figures on Long Island active in the reduction of gang violence in society. DeMarco, who has served as sheriff for 12 years and decided earlier this year he would not seek a fourth term, was on the short list of honorees alongside Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and Council for Unity alumnus Dr. James Li.

He received a plaque referring to him as a visionary, reformer and humanitarian “for creating a climate of hope and possibility for the inmates in his charge.”

While introducing DeMarco to receive his honor, Butch Langhorn, assistant to the sheriff who oversees the Council For Unity sessions at the jail, recalled the first meeting he and DeMarco had with DeSena.

“While we were listening, I had this smirk on my face as if to say to ‘this guy is nuts,’” Langhorn said. “You’re going to get Crips and everybody together Kumbaya-ing? That’s not happening here. But Sheriff DeMarco is somebody who’s willing to take a chance. And let me tell you, it was worth a chance. I love this man.”

During his 2005 campaign, DeMarco advocated for more programs that aimed to work with inmates and provide opportunities to change their lives. This came in response to a New York State mandate at the time to build a new $300 million correctional facility in Suffolk as the county was pushing 1,800 to 2,000 inmates per day. He was determined to not only lower the population, but make sure the inmates were working toward a goal beyond bars.

“I thought, this is corrections and we’re supposed to correct their behavior,” DeMarco said at the podium. “The facility isn’t about warehousing people and just putting them back into the same situation they came from.”

Although he admitted being skeptical of the idea of intermingling gang members at first, fearing it would only lead to more violence, the sheriff said he left the meeting with DeSena fully on board.

Mario Bulluc, a former MS-13 gang member, went trough the Riverhead jail program and spoke during the gala. Photo by Kevin Redding

“He did this Jedi mind trick on me and I was spun around,” DeMarco said laughing. “I just kept thinking, ‘this could work, this could work.’ It was the right thing to do and we’ve come a long way. A couple people who went through the program are out now and they’re getting paychecks, they’re married. [The program] got them out of gang culture. That warms my heart and makes it all worthwhile for me. I know we’ve helped change people’s lives, so this is a big honor for me. You always seem to remember the first and last thing you did in a position and Bob was the first meeting I ever took and now there’s this. It’s a nice little cap off.”

Mario Bulluc, 22, who was an MS-13 leader when he was a student at Riverhead High School and now serves as an employee of the council, sought refuge in the program after countless close calls with death and time spent in the Riverhead jail. He now devotes his life to helping kids get out of gangs.

“Council For Unity saved my life — DeMarco and DeSena are the greatest men I’ve ever met,” said Bulluc, who joined the infamous gang when he was 14. “They try and get to the root of our problems and help us see we are the same people no matter our race, gang, or gang colors. If I can change, anybody can.”

Alex Bryant, a retired corrections officer at Riverhead and a Council For Unity advisor, said the council was put to the test in the correctional facility and has been proven to be life-changing. He pointed to DeMarco’s leadership as the reason for its success.

“I’ve been under several sheriffs in my 30-year tenure in the field,” Bryant said. “DeMarco is by far the best. He is progressive and eons ahead of most sheriffs across the state of New York.”

File photo.
Ricardo Vargas’ mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police arrested a Coram man after he robbed a pizza shop delivery person at knifepoint in Port Jefferson Station Nov. 11.

Ricardo Vargas ordered food from Bella Maria Restaurant and Pizzeria in Coram to be delivered to King Street in Port Jefferson Station. He selected the delivery address at random. When the delivery person arrived, at approximately 9:40 p.m., Vargas, who had been waiting nearby, approached him, displayed a knife and demanded money. The delivery person complied, and Vargas fled on foot with cash and the food.

The victim, a 61-year-old man, called 911, and 6th Precinct Police officers, 6th Squad detectives, Aviation Section officers and Canine Section officers responded, and after searching the area, located and arrested Vargas on nearby Hewes Street at 11:30 p.m.

Vargas, 27, of Selden, was charged with first-degree robbery, as well as an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.

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