Police & Fire

Suffolk County police Capt. Kevin Williams. Photo by Kyle Barr

A Suffolk police officer offered startling insight into threats of school violence within the Smithtown community.

Suffolk County Police Department Capt. Kevin Williams gave his first presentation of what is expected to be many to Town of Smithtown officials at their May 8 town board meeting. As the town’s new liaison to the 4th Precinct, he gave an overall picture of what threats police are dealing with at area schools and in the community.

Graphic showing the 4th Precincts business investigations and arrests in 60 days prior to May 8. Graphic by TBR News Media

Williams said that since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, police have seen an increase in school-related incidents within the areas of Commack, Hauppauge, Nesconset and Smithtown.

“If you’ve seen it in the media, there’s probably one a day, threats from students against the school stating they are going to do a Parkland-like shooting or Columbine-type thing,” he said.

Williams said the increased cases of threats of school violence are not unique to Smithtown but are occurring in other precincts across the county. He advised parents to make a point of talking with their children about what may be inappropriate things to say and how they can raise a red flag with police. All threats are taken seriously, according to Williams, and are fully investigated taking a “decent” amount of time.

Suffolk police have been reaching out to and engaging in conversation with those school districts who have chosen to hire armed guards, including Hauppauge School District, following the Florida shooting, according to Williams.

“One of the most important things we all agreed is the people they hire are ex-law enforcement,” he said. “Highly trained professionals who have been out there and dealt with dangerous situations like this.”

He indicated a second school district within the Town of Smithtown is considering hiring armed guards in the future. As this becomes more common, Williams said cops are working to make sure they can quickly and easily identify armed guards in case of an active shooter situation.

Opiod overdoses reported by the the 4th Precinct. Graphic by TBR News Media

In April, the police department reported violent crimes and drug overdoses were all heading in the right direction in the first quarter of 2018. This trend has continued over the past 30 days in Smithtown.

Williams reported drug overdoses due to opioid use, both fatal and nonfatal, have decreased by 25 percent compared to the same time period last year. He credited this to the agency’s 852-NARC (6272) hotline, which receives approximately 12 to 15 phone calls a month from residents providing tips on drug dealers and sales. The officer said the 4th Precinct’s narcotic detectives executed 14 search warrants in January alone and made numerous arrests.

Over the last month, Williams said robberies are down, with one in 2018 compared to four over the same period of time in 2017, as well as a decrease in residential burglaries. The biggest culprit of home invasions remains unsecured homes or buildings, he said.

“It’s summer and people want to leave their windows open, but a screen is not protection,” he warned.

One exception to the decrease in crime is in the area of commercial burglaries. In the past 30 days, there have been four instances compared to none during the same period of 2017, according to Williams. One recent case involved an individual who attempted to pry open the back door of St. Thomas More R.C. Church in Hauppauge.

High school educational component created to combat teen drunk and districated driving, opioid abuse

A public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment. Video from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

With graduation approaching comes a new outreach program to keep kids safe.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced an initiative aimed at educating high school students and their parents on the dangers of impaired and reckless driving May 14. The program, Choices and Consequences, is described as a dynamic, engaging presentation that is provided by assistant district attorneys and detectives assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Vehicular Crime Bureau.

“Whether it’s texting and driving, drinking or doing drugs and driving, these decisions can be fatal,” Sini said. “The Choices and Consequences program drives that message home to teens and their parents by using real-life examples that unfortunately have changed lives forever, have taken lives from us prematurely and have devastated victims’ families and friends here in Suffolk County.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between 15 and 24 years old is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are impaired driving and reckless or distracted driving.

During Sini’s tenure as Suffolk County police commissioner, motor vehicle crashes within the police district were reduced by more than 30 percent as a result of a multi-pronged enforcement effort to increase traffic safety.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions.” — Tim Sini

“I’m proud to say that the Suffolk County Police Department and its partners have been successful in reducing motor vehicle crashes that result in serious physical injuries or fatalities, but enforcement is just one piece of our approach,” Sini said. “We need to educate — we need to raise awareness of making bad decisions behind the wheel.”

The Choices and Consequences program is based on a presentation created in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and later adopted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. It comprises facts and statistics on impaired and reckless driving; interactive skits that show how police officers respond to motor vehicle crash scenes and detect impairment; and demonstrations of the impacts of alcohol and drugs on motor skills.

In partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, the scope of the effort has been expanded to educate participants about the dangers of substance use in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

LICADD, in conjunction with the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a family charitable foundation concentrated on alcohol use disorder and addiction, and on educating the public that addiction is a medical illness, recently released a public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” that highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment.

“LICADD is proud to partner with the district attorney’s office as it takes the lead in making sure that this life-saving education is provided to every student and every parent in Suffolk County,” said Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD. “It’s so important when dealing with a disease that is potentially preventable to get this message out in every Long Island school. This is how we are going to turn the corner on this epidemic.”

Sini invited school districts and community groups across Suffolk County to participate in the program by emailing InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov or calling 631-853-5602.

“We have proms, graduations and the summer months coming up, so it’s the perfect time for schools to invite us in to provide this presentation,” Sini said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions. It is that powerful.”

Five people were injured Sunday when a SUV flipped onto its side on Larkfield Road in East Northport.

The East Northport Fire Department and Suffolk County police responded to reports of a motor vehicle crash near the intersection of Larkfield Road and Cedar Road at approximately 7 p.m. May 20. The accident involved a Toyota SUV that had overturned onto it’s side and had swiped another car. Firefighters had to use the heavy rescue tools including the “jaws of life” to remove the roof from the vehicle, according to fire department spokesman Steve Silverman.

The five occupants of the SUV, three adults and two children, were transported to Huntington Hospital where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Silverman said. The driver of the car declined any medical assistance.

There were about 50 East Northport firefighters and emergency personnel who responded and were on the scene with four heavy rescue engines, four ambulances, paramedic first responders and fire police under the direction of fire Chief Dan Heffernan.

Huntington Station resident Michael Colangelo in uniform. Photo from Facebook

Two off-duty New York City police officers from Long Island were killed in an upstate car crash Sunday.

New York City Police Department said in a press statement Huntington Station resident Michael Colangelo, 31, and Hauppauge resident John Martinez, 39, were killed in a single-car crash May 20. Colangelo was assigned to the NYPD’s canine unit while Martinez worked in the 84th Precinct’s detective squad.

New York state police responded to reports of a fatal motor vehicle accident on Oliveria Road in Shandaken, New York at approximately 11:23 p.m. May 20. Police determined that Martinez was driving a 2018 Maserati when the vehicle left the roadway and struck a large tree, before flipping and coming to a stop on it’s roof. Both Colangelo, a passenger, and Martinez, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. A third passenger was transported to Albany Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

Watch TBR News Media for more to come on this breaking news story.

Correction: Updated 2:38 p.m. May 21:  The NYPD officer killed is John Martinez, not James as first reported. 

Two Dix Hills men arrested as a result of a long-term investigation

Dix Hill residents Wesley Snider and Steve Polizzi were arrested by New York State police for allegedly possessing more than 500 pounds of marijuana. Photo from NYS Police Dept

New York State police announced the arrest of two men who allegedly had more than 500 pounds of marijuana stored in two East Northport facilities.

The state police’s Troop L narcotics unit, based in Farmingdale, along with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office arrested two men for allegedly possessing drugs after a long-term investigation. Police executed search warrants at a Dix Hills home and two storage facilities, located at 2083 and 2091 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport. The officers found more than 500 pounds of marijuana, which was estimated to have a street value of more than $2 million. In addition, there was more than $200,000 along with multiple vehicles and real estate properties seized as result of the investigation, according to state police.

State police arrested two Dix Hills residents Steve Polizzi, 57, and Wesley Snider, 28. Polizzi is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, one count of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.  Snider is charged with one count of first-degree criminal possession of marijuana and one count seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Both men were arraigned May 10 in First District Court in Central Islip, and will be held in Riverhead county jail in lieu of bail. Attorney information for the defendants was not immediately available.

File photo

Suffolk County police 2nd squad detectives are investigating a car accident that killed a man in Greenlawn Friday night.

Police said Michael Spera was driving a 1995 Nissan westbound on Clay Pitts Road near Stratford Avenue when he lost control and the car overturned at approximately 6:50 p.m. May 18. Spera, 34, of East Northport, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Christopher Walsh, 36, of East Northport, a passenger in the car, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information about the crash to call the 2nd squad at 631-854-8252.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Police have arrested a Huntington Station man for his alleged involvement in a March 31 shooting in Lindenhurst.

Hector Gonzalez, 27, of Huntington Station, an alleged Latin Kings gang member, was arrested May 15 and charged with allegedly murdering Herminio Torres, 25, of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Attorney information for Gonzalez was not immediately available.

An altercation started inside and continued outside at 105 Grados, located at 105 Sunrise Highway, at approximately 3:20 a.m. During the fight, two men were shot and three men were stabbed.

“The district attorney’s office remains committed to eradicating dangerous street gangs from our communities and cracking down on senseless gun violence,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “We will do everything in our power to bring this individual, a self-proclaimed Latin Kings gang member, to justice.”

Torres, was transported by the Lindenhurst Fire Department to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where he was pronounced dead. The second shooting victim, 26, self-transported to an area hospital and was subsequently transported to another hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. A 23-year-old man was stabbed and transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Two other men who were stabbed, ages 28 and 35, were transported to local hospitals where they were treated and released.

Anyone with information is asked to call Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police arrested three people for selling e-liquid nicotine to minors at businesses located in the Town of Huntington.

In response to community complaints, 2nd Precinct crime section officers and representatives from Suffolk’s Department of Health Services Tobacco Regulation Enforcement Unit conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors at 11 businesses.

The following people were arrested and charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child:

  • Ramazan Gurler, 49, of Deer Park, employed at Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn
  • Tasabbir Hossain, 25, of Ronkonkoma, employed at 110 Convenience on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • Somesh Dhawan, 30, of Queens Village, employed at Evolve IV Smoke Shop on Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The owners of the above businesses were issued a notice of violation by the county’s Department of Health.

The following businesses complied, and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Smoke Shop, located at 6318 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Long Island Vape, located at 469A East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Gotham Smoke & Novelty Shop, located at 681 East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Whatever Vape Shop, located at 675 Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • East Coast Psychedelics, located at 6124 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Liquid Lyfe Vapor Shop, located at 6160 East Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Gulf Gas, located at 253 Broadway in Greenlawn
  • Mr. Tobacco, located at 2031 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The three people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

Suffolk County police arrested a woman May 10 who allegedly attempted to murder her newborn baby earlier this year.

Felicia Squillace gave birth at her home in Coram April 27 at approximately 1:30 p.m. The mother then allegedly wrapped the baby boy in a plastic bag and attempted to put the baby in a garbage bin outside. Two residents of the home heard the baby cry, took the bag from the mother, removed the baby and called police.

Following the birth, Squillace was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for medical treatment and evaluation. She was subsequently transferred to Brunswick Hospital in Amityville where upon her release she was arrested by detectives from the special victim’s section.

The baby was transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson for evaluation and has since been released to foster care.

Squillace, 26, was be held overnight at the 4th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on May 11. Attorney information was not immediately available.

Officer Michael Cassidy with Thor, left, and Officer Christopher Fezza assisted the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct with saving a man who was about to hang himself in a wooded area in Stony Brook. Photos from Suffolk County Police Department

A German Shepherd recently proved why dogs are man’s best friend.

A Stony Brook man is alive today due to the efforts of a dog named Thor and two Suffolk County Police Department canine section officers, Michael Cassidy and Christopher Fezza. On April 30, after an unsuccessful attempt by police to find a suicidal man in a wooded area near Seabrook Court, 6th Precinct officers called the canine section unit for assistance.

“There was one point that the ladder started to fall, and I didn’t know how long I could hold onto the ladder or hold him up.”

— Christopher Fezza

When Cassidy and Fezza arrived on the scene, Cassidy said Thor was brought to the last place where it was believed the victim was seen. From there he followed the missing man’s scent, and the officers were able to find him. When they discovered him in the woods, he had climbed a ladder and had a noose around his neck.

Fezza said he climbed the subject’s ladder in order to hold him up and take the tension off the noose.

“There was one point that the ladder started to fall, and I didn’t know how long I could hold onto the ladder or hold him up,” Fezza said.

Another 6th Precinct officer was able to steady the ladder, and Cassidy handed Fezza a knife to free the man.

“Having officer Fezza with me was essential in the success in saving this individual’s life,” Cassidy said.

Fezza, who has been with the canine unit for more than a year and with SCPD for 10 years, said it was all in a day’s work.

When it comes to finding an individual, Cassidy, who has worked with seven-year-old Thor since he was 10 months old, said German Shepherds, unlike Bloodhounds, don’t need a piece of a person’s clothing to find them and basically go by ground odor. Cassidy said once a victim is found, he has to stay by Thor.

“You take them into an area and whoever was the last person there, that dog will pick up their scent.”

— Michael Cassidy

“You take them into an area and whoever was the last person there, that dog will pick up their scent,” Cassidy said. “And once they have that scent, they’ll stick with that. They will discriminate from other scents and they will continue to track that scent.”

The officer, who has been with the police department for 27 years and with the canine unit for 18, said he and Thor quite often respond to calls involving a suicidal person, and the incidents have increased over the years, he speculated as a byproduct of the heroin and opioid addiction crisis.

Both Cassidy and Fezza said most people go into police work to help others, and it doesn’t get better than saving someone’s life.

“It’s definitely rewarding when you’re able to locate a subject and prevent them from actually killing themselves,” Cassidy said.

Once the victim was rescued, he was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

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