Police & Fire

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event Feb. 9 at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D-Lake Grove) has only been in office for six weeks but he’s wasting no time working on the issues he campaigned on and bringing change to his new environment.

“Every single day since I’ve started, I wake up very enthused and energetic to get to work,” Toulon said during a media roundtable discussion he hosted Feb. 9 at Yaphank Correctional Facility. “I want to break down the barrier between law enforcement and our community — I want residents to know who their sheriff is.”

Since Jan. 1, Toulon, a former Rikers Island corrections officer and captain, has visited five school districts across the county, from Huntington to Bay Shore, to speak with students about bullying, vaping, opioid use and gangs as part of a long-term initiative to, in his own words, “get to the kids before they get to me.” A more thorough “listening tour” will be held across local high schools during which Toulon will meet with specific students who face drug- and gang-related problems.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do.’”

— Steve Kuehhas

“I am going to be very tough on crime,” he said. “I will, as I did in New York City, go after gang members and those distributing drugs illegally and I encourage the community’s support.”

He said he is in the process of creating an intelligence-gathering system within the correctional facility similar to one established in the gang unit at Rikers Island to help outside law enforcement partners, including District Attorney Tim Sini (D), track down criminals and better prevent and solve crimes. As part of the system, information will be  gathered from inmates through interviews, phone calls, visits and social media interactions that occurred before incarceration, with a focus on targeting particular crimes in certain towns and jurisdictions.

He said he will also be implementing a re-entry program for inmates leaving the jail focused on rehabilitation and counseling.

“We’re all in this together and that individual that’s in his cell today may be in Target tomorrow buying something,” he said. “So I want to make sure we treat everyone with fairness and respect, and assist them in keeping their dignity. I feel confident that, after four years, we are going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives by deterring individuals from joining gangs, reducing this epidemic involving prescription drugs and [reduce] the high rate of recidivism.”

Toulon said he is adamant about taking politics out of the sheriff’s office, insisting he will not be accepting any political contributions and that all employees will be evaluated solely on attendance and work performance.

He has already met with various members of his staff, and inmates in the housing area, to address any issues they may have faced in the past. In light of the nationwide #MeToo movement, he said he will be meeting with female deputy sheriff’s, correctional officers and non-uniform staff members to create a more open environment when it comes to addressing issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Inside the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. File photo by Kevin Redding

While he admits to having a different management style than his predecessor, former sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C), Toulon said he is pleased so far by the way Suffolk’s two jails operate and will be holding onto many of DeMarco’s implementations.

This includes a controversial policy change in December 2016 to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested in Suffolk County, and are eligible to be released pending a trial, at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents so they can begin the deportation process. Before DeMarco implemented the change, the county needed a judge’s order, or warrant, to hold onto someone wanted by federal immigration officials.

At the time, DeMarco expressed concerns about the impact on public safety that could come from releasing immigrants who committed crimes back into their communities.

“ICE will stay in this jail,” Toulon said. “It’s a hot button topic, but my number one job is to keep the community safe. Looking at local charges of all undocumented inmates, these are really horrific crimes — if done by anybody. We’re talking about sexual assault, robberies, burglaries.”

Current Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas, a former bureau chief for the district attorney’s office who became second in command to DeMarco in 2016, is the only past employee of the office who will be interviewed for undersheriff in the new administration as Toulon seeks “an infusion of new and objective ideas.”

Kuehhas said he’s beyond impressed with the job Toulon has done so far.

“I told him, ‘You’ve done more in six weeks than I’ve ever seen anyone take office do,’” he said. “I know because I’m at his side all the time and the work is constant, which I love. It’s always busy. And this is just the beginning. He’s very honest when he says he wants to be transparent and always available to the public.”

More than 200 pints collected at 8th annual Glenn Ciano memorial blood drive

Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano. File Photo.

Some consider finding a penny with a loved ones’ date of birth or a special anniversary a message from heaven. For Commack firefighters, there was a message in the 222 pints of blood that were donated Feb. 10.

Officer Glen Ciano was the 22nd member of Suffolk County Police Department killed in the line of duty. He died Feb. 22, 2009. Ciano was a 22-year veteran of the 2nd Precinct based in Huntington, which at the time had 21 patrol cars under its command. When Ciano died, the precinct retired his car and the next patrol squad car, No. 222, was named in Ciano’s honor.

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message,” said John Bicocchi, president of the Commack Fire Department. “It’s like he’s saying hello.”

“Everybody is saying there’s something going on, that Glen sent us a message”
— John Bicocchi

The fire department held its 8th annual Glen Ciano memorial blood drive Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hundreds of Commack residents, firefighters and Suffolk County police officers lined up to donate.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything, 100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Ciano died while responding to a call for backup in 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole. Commack firefighters responded to the scene.

Ciano is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Samantha and Daniel.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed their blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the fire department.

“By having a blood drive in [Ciano’s] memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”
— Stuart Cameron

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people and donating blood.”

Sue Lingenfelter, business development manager for New York Blood Center, said the organization has experienced a shortage of blood donations. Long Island needs nearly 800 pints donated per day and New York-Metro area 2,000 pints per day, according to Lingenfelter, to assure a steady supply for medical treatments and emergencies.

“Here in New York metro area, less than 2 percent of eligible donors give blood, which is the worst percentage of participation in the country,” she said.

This winter, Long Island’s blood banks have been negatively impacted by the influenza epidemic, cold weather, blizzards cancelling several blood drive events and government shutdowns.

“No one ever knows when they are going to need blood, but everyone expects it to be there,” Lingenfelter said.

Susan Ciano said she attends the event every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

This post was last updated Feb. 15 at 2:08 p.m. 

by -
0 1794
File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police 7th Squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed Shoreham man in Rocky Point early Feb. 12.

Nicholas Mistretta was driving a 2009 Ford Focus eastbound on Route 25A bypass, east of Broadway, when his vehicle left the roadway and struck at tree at approximately 3:45 a.m. Mistretta, 24, who was alone in the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 7th Squad at 631-852-8752.

Suffolk County police, Commack Fire Department to honor Glen Ciano at Feb. 10 event

Susan Ciano announces the 8th annual blood drive in memory of her late husband, former Suffolk County police officer Glen Ciano. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Suffolk County police and Commack firefighters will be holding a blood drive to honor an officer who died in the line of duty.

The 8th annual Glen Ciano Memorial Blood Drive will be at the Commack Fire Department’s main firehouse on Jericho Turnpike Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It is our honor to honor Glen in this way,” said Pat Fazio, commissioner of the Commack Fire Department. “Glen was someone who gave everything,100 percent of the time and he gave it all.”

Officer Ciano, a 22-year Suffolk County Police Department veteran who worked out of the 2nd Precinct in Huntington, died while responding to a call for backup Feb. 22, 2009. While at the intersection of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road in Commack, his vehicle was struck by a 2007 Dodge Magnum and burst into flames upon hitting a nearby telephone pole.

The driver of the Dodge Magnum, Jose Borbon, pled guilty to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving while intoxicated in November 2010.

Fazio said the Commack Fire Department renamed its blood drive after Ciano upon his death to honor his service to community residents and mentoring of firefighters in the department.

“It’s wonderful they are continuing his memory in a most appropriate fashion by having this blood drive every year,” said Stuart Cameron, chief of department for Suffolk County police. “By having a blood drive in his memory, it’s a way for him to continue helping his community by supporting people an donating blood.”

Ciano’s wife, Susan, said she attends the event each and every year, talking to attendees about their memories of her husband.

“What I look forward to in February — it’s a tough month for me — is this blood drive,” she said. “When I go, I see many of the same people and many new people. I am there all day long because I want to thank people for giving their time.”

The blood drive will be held at the main fire house, located at 6309 Jericho Turnpike in Commack. Donors must be between the ages of 16, with signed parental consent, and 75 years old, with doctor’s written permission.

Celso Garcia Mendez. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police arrested a Huntington Station man for allegedly stalking a teen while she was walking to her bus stop for more than a month.

Celso Garcia Mendez approached a 13-year-old female and allegedly handed her a note as she was walking to her bus stop on Sixth Avenue in Huntington Station on Feb. 8 at approximately 7:30 a.m. Garcia Mendez, 25, left in a silver Chrysler sedan. Officers obtained a description of the man, surveyed the area and identified the suspect.

South Huntington School officials said they were informed of the incident Feb. 8. They issued a stranger danger alert on the school district’s website and encouraged the community to report any further suspicious activity to the district and the police.

An investigation by 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers determined Garcia Mendez had approached and attempted to communicate with the teen, who previously asked him to stop, near her bus stop for approximately one month.

Garcia Mendez was charged with fourth-degree stalking and endangering the welfare of a child. He was scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip on Feb. 9.

Following the arrest, the school district posted an update announcing Garcia Mendez’s arrest on their website.

“We are pleased to inform you as a result of the cooperation between South Huntington schools, 2nd Precinct, and the family, the individual described in yesterday’s stranger danger message was arrested this morning,” read the district’s post. This is an important reminder that the strength and safety of our community rests on the communication between all constituents.”

Superintendent David Bennardo and Stimson Middle School Principal Edwin Smith also thanked local law enforcement for their quick response. They asked South Huntington parents to make sure to discuss personal safety and the importance of reporting suspicious activity with their children.

This post was updated Feb. 9 at 10:45 a.m. with additional information. 

 

Plans for the new Rocky Point firehouse on King Road. Ground is scheduled to be broken in June. Rendering from Michael Russo/Hawkins Webb Jaeger

With an extra push from the town, Rocky Point Fire District is setting its sights on early June to begin construction of a more durable and up-to-date firehouse in the footprint of its existing one at 90 King Road. The $8.5 million project, approved by the public in a vote in August 2017, also includes the acquisition of a new aerial ladder truck.

During the Jan. 25 Town of Brookhaven board meeting, council members voted to waive the project’s site plan requirements and building fees, turning an administrative review over to its Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management instead of outside engineers. This reduces the overall cost to taxpayers and speeds up the “shovel in the ground” process, according to fire district officials.

“Every little bit helps,” said Rocky Point Fire District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, who was unable to provide the exact costs the fire district would be saving at this time. “It’s not astronomical, but there are significant costs, and those things add up.”

“The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

— Jane Bonner

Fire district officials have been working alongside architect group Hawkins Webb Jaeger since last year to fine-tune the design of the new firehouse — which the project’s architect said will be made of natural stone as opposed to brick; consist of pitched roofs and a hidden flat roof for storage of mechanical equipment; and include a spacious meeting room as well as a “ready room” for responders, who currently have to put on their gear in the way of incoming and outgoing fire trucks.

The building will also be up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the most widely used green building rating system in the world; include energy-efficient LED lights; and be equipped with better, more cost-efficient heating and cooling systems.

It was designed to have a “more residential feel” than the existing, decades-old building, according to Michael Russo, an associate architect at Hawkins Webb Jaeger.

“We felt this would be the bookend to the north end of the Rocky Point business district and something that works well for the edge of a residential community and the end of a North Shore downtown center,” Russo said.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) spoke of the benefits of the new design.

“It’s a very modest firehouse, very traditional looking, and it will blend in nicely in the community and downtown,” she said. “The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

Russo and Johnson said upon breaking ground in June, they hope to complete construction of the new building’s apparatus bay by winter, so the fire vehicles can be stored and protected against freezing temperatures. During construction, fire district personnel will work out of portable trailers and possibly garages being offered up by community members.

Johnson said he estimates the project will take up to a year to complete. The fire district will be going out to bid for contractors in the coming months.

Two Halesite firefighters were injured responding to a Huntington Bay blaze. Photo from Halesite Fire Department.

Two Halesite firefighters were injured and a dog was killed in a house fire over the weekend.

Halesite Fire Department responded to reports of smoke and flames at a two-story residence on Bay Drive West in Huntington Bay at approximately 12:35 p.m. Feb. 3, department spokeswoman Kate Deegan said. Hose Rescue Company Lieutenant K.C. Anna was on scene first with his son, firefighter Taigue Anna, and reported the fire to Halesite Fire Department Dispatch.  

Upon arriving at the scene, Chief Greg Colonna was advised by neighbors that the building owner was not at home, but had a dog, according to Deegan. The neighbors had attempted to find the petl. The dog was found later by firefighters during fire operations, however it had perished.  

There were about 50 firefighters on the scene under the command of Colonna and Assistant Chief James Magerle, who were able to quickly extinguish the flames on the first and second floors, according to Deegan. Mutual aid at the scene was provided by Centerport, Huntington and Huntington Manor fire departments.

Two Halesite firefighters were transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment of minor injuries and released, Deegan said.

The Suffolk County Police Arson Squad is investigating the cause of the fire.

GoFundMe campaign seeks to raise money to help firefighter's family recover from tragedy

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department members Adrian Benvenuti and his family. Photo from GoFundMe.

Cold Spring Harbor firefighters found themselves in the difficult position of having to rush to the aid of one of their own.

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at approximately 9:49 p.m. Feb. 2 on Main Street. Upon their arrival, firefighters under the direction of Captain Brendan Fitts were able to quickly extinguish a fire in the closet of the home’s second-floor master bedroom, according to spokesman Steve Silverman.

The Main Street home is owned by Adrian Benvenuti, a 15-year member of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department and ex-assistant chief. Benvenuti was able to safely get his three young children out of the house during the fire, Silverman said. His wife, Brenna, was not at home at the time of the fire.

While damage to the residence was limited, Silverman said that the Benvenuti family is expected to be displaced from their home for about three months due to water and smoke damage.

Lieutenant Daniel Martin, a paramedic with the fire department, launched a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to aid the Benvenuti family. At the time of this publication, more than $4,500 of the $10,000 goal has been raised.

Several community members have posted words of encouragement and support on the GoFundMe page including “Cold Spring Harbor strong.” There were several offers of help from both individuals and local business.

The fundraiser for Adrian Benvenuti and his family can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/benvenuti-family-fire-relief-fund.

Firefighters work on a blaze at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A fire at a home on Clematis Street in Port Jefferson Station at about 4 a.m. Feb. 5 required response from four local fire departments, according to Dennis Whittam of the Terryville Fire Department. With assistance from Port Jefferson, Setauket and Selden, Terryville Fire Department battled the blaze.

 

“Under the command of Chief of Department Tom Young, the fire, which had extended to the attic, was brought under control without incident,” Whittam said.

The fire is under investigation by the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshal’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department’s Arson Unit.

This post was updated Feb. 5 to include video shot by Dawn Farrell Brown.

A fire burns at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

An Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers, including Lee Zeldin, crashed into a garbage truck Wednesday, killing a passenger of the truck. Photo from Albemarle County Police Department

An Amtrak train crashed into a garbage truck on the tracks in Albemarle County, Virginia at about 11 a.m. Jan. 31, according to the Albemarle County Police Department. The train left from Washington D.C. and was carrying several GOP lawmakers headed to the Annual Congressional Institute retreat, including U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Three people were in the truck upon impact, including 28-year-old Virginia resident Christopher Foley, who died as a result of injuries sustained during the crash, according to ACPD.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to check in,” Zeldin said in a statement released via email through spokeswoman Katie Vincentz. “I am okay. It was clear upon impact that something had gone terribly wrong and I am very grateful that the train was able to stop without severely derailing. Fortunately, our amazing first responders, police officers and medical professionals, without hesitation, leaped into action with the utmost expertise and professionalism to help everyone in need of first aid. I am praying for all those injured in today’s accident and their families and loved ones.”

Foley was one of two passengers in the truck. The other was airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center with critical injuries, and the driver was transported by ground in serious condition, ACPD said.

“The ACPD, Albemarle County Fire/Rescue and numerous other state and local agencies worked quickly to break down the size and scope of the scene,” ACPD Public Information Officer Madeline Curott said in a statement. “The ACPD Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash and working with the National Transportation Safety Board in their Investigation.”

Social

4,907FansLike
1,036FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe