Police & Fire

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County police arrested two men Sept. 3 for allegedly committing a series of more than 15 burglaries at Suffolk County stores over the last month. 

Richard Ambrose. Photo from SCPD

Police arrested Rocky Point resident Richard Ambrose, 41, and Riverhead resident Travis James, and both have been charged with third-degree burglary for the three burglaries that occurred Sept. 3 in the early morning:

• Speedway Gas Station, located on Jericho Turnpike in Commack, at approximately 1:23 a.m.

• Conoco Gas Station located on Medford Avenue in Patchogue at approximately 2:30 a.m.

• Speedway Gas Station located on Route 112 in Port Jeff Station, at approximately 3 a.m.

Ambrose was also charged with multiple counts of third-degree burglary for allegedly robbing more than 10 stores throughout the month, according to police, including:

• Aug. 8, Tease Salon Off Broadway, located on Route 25A in Rocky Point

• Aug. 10, Broadway Market, located on Broadway in Rocky Point

• Aug. 15, The Wine Authority, located on Nesconset Highway in Mount Sinai

Aug. 17, Speedway Gas Station, located on Middle Country Road in Lake Grove

Aug. 19, Speedway Gas Station, located on Route 347/Nesconset Highway in Smithtown

• Aug. 21, Moody Mart/ Mobil Gas Station, located on West Jericho Turnpike in  Smithtown

• Aug. 26, Pit Stop Pantry, located on Montauk Highway in East Moriches

• Aug. 26, Speedway Gas Station, located on Montauk Highway in Bayport

• Aug. 27, Onsen Sushi, located on 597 Montauk Highway in Oakdale

• Aug. 27, The Fortune Cookie Chinese Food Restaurant, located on Montauk Highway in Oakdale

• Aug. 31, BP Gas Station, located on Nesconset Highway in Port Jeff Station

Ambrose was also charged with multiple counts of third-degree burglary by the Riverhead, Quogue and Southold police departments for his alleged participation in four gas station robberies that took place over a two-week span on the East End between Aug. 12 and Aug. 25. 

Ambrose and James were held overnight at the 6th Precinct, and were scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip Sept. 4.

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Pizza lovers hoping for a slice at one East Setauket restaurant had to go elsewhere this Labor Day weekend.

John Fornino, owner of Via Pizza & Pasta, said he was standing at the restaurant’s kitchen door at approximately 3:25 p.m. Sept. 1 when he heard an explosion of glass. He said his first reaction was to cover his head, when he looked up he saw an SUV stopped just short of the counter.

Fornino said the vehicle came through the window, and in addition to the window being shattered, the front wall was damaged. The SUV knocked over tables and chairs inside the pizzeria, but he said no one was inside or in front of the business.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the 71-year-old female driver was treated at the scene and did not need further medical attention. Fornino said he didn’t talk to the driver but he could see she was distraught.

Two Town of Brookhaven building inspectors and a fire marshal were on the scene shortly after the incident, according to Kevin Molloy, a town spokesman. While it was condemned during the Labor Day weekend, he said after a visit by a town fire marshal and inspector Sept. 4, the building was deemed safe for public use.

Updated Sept. 4 to include accounts from John Fornino.


Greenlawn firefighters proudly showcased their dedication to service and community to kickoff the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Greenlawn Fire Department hosted its annual parade Thursday night, Aug. 30, as bagpipers, marching bands, historic trucks and hundreds of volunteer firemen marched their way down Broadway. The parade marks the start of the Greenlawn Firemen’s Fair —which claims to be the state’s oldest fair — running from Aug. 30 through Labor Day. The fairgrounds are closed Sept. 2.

Detectives are looking for Alejandro Vargas-Diaz, 36, who also goes by Alejandro deVargas-Diaz and Robin Vargas, who police have identified as a suspect in a July shooting in Port Jeff. Photos from SCPD
Detectives are looking for Alejandro Vargas-Diaz, 36, who police have identified as a suspect in a July shooting in Port Jeff. Photos from SCPD

A suspect has been identified in connection with the deadly shooting at a Port Jefferson billiards hall in July, and the police is looking for help from the public.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are looking for Alejandro Vargas-Diaz, 36, who also goes by Alejandro deVargas-Diaz and Robin Vargas. He is the alleged shooter in a July 22 incident in which Albert Luis Rodriguez Lopez, 27 of Selden, was shot and killed at about 8:30 p.m. inside Billiards DBM, located at 1604 Main Street in upper Port Jeff Village, according to police. He has ties to Brooklyn, Queens, Paramus, New Jersey, Patterson, New Jersey and Hartford, Connecticut, police said.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

On Aug. 23, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook hosted a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament with local fire departments, including Setauket, Centereach and Selden, competing to win and raise money for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. The money raised will help to buy “bailout systems,” which are personal escape kits, for fire departments in need all over the country.

The winners of the $1,000 prize money were members of New York City Fire Department’s Watkins Station Engine 231/Ladder 120 — Darren Fenton, Patrick Tulley, Connor Norman and Anthony Edrehi. The tournament winners and John-Paul Sabbagh, from the Terryville Fire Department who won the event’s 50/50 raffle, donated their winnings back to the foundation.

The event cost $20 to enter, and the tournament was judged by John Tsunis, owner of the hotel; Joe DiBernardo Sr.; and Leah Dunaief, publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media. Dan Keller from Stony Brook University’s athletics department served as referee.

Tsunis said the hotel hopes to make the tournament an annual event, adding, “It was a lot of fun to have all the firefighters there and all the community members we recruited to play.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The late summer extreme heat wave likely contributed to the death of an 11-year-old girl in Coram Aug. 28.

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating the death of the girl who was found unresponsive in a vehicle on Kathleen Crescent in Coram Tuesday at about 3:45 p.m., police said.

The girl’s mother had been running errands with the 11-year-old and two other children, according to police. After returning home, the girl’s mother went inside believing all of the children were out of the car. Sometime later, the mother could not locate the 11-year-old girl and checked inside of the car where she found the girl. The mother carried her inside the house and called 911.

The girl’s mother began CPR. Police arrived in less than two minutes. Police and rescue personnel from Coram Rescue continued CPR and transported the girl to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

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Volunteers with the Setauket Fire Department respond to a fire in Poquott Aug. 16. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department is embarking on new territory.

Commissioners of the Setauket Fire District voted unanimously Aug. 23 in favor of changing the titles of four paid fire protection coordinators to firefighters. The four will be the first paid firefighters in the district’s history.

Before the vote, a public hearing was held to give volunteers and residents the opportunity to air any grievances or ask questions. Approximately three dozen filled the meeting room and hallway as Commissioner Jay Gardiner began the hearing by reading a statement from the board members. He said the decision was the result of commissioners identifying issues in the fire district for several years.

“This is not an indictment on the volunteers. We have said this over and over again. We are all proud of the work of our fire and EMS volunteers.”

— Jay Gardiner

“The changing demographics of the membership of the fire department has been significant, and coupled with the decrease in number of new members, has manifested itself in a decline in the ability to respond to fire alarms with adequate personnel and proper equipment during certain critical periods,” Gardiner said.

The commissioner said the district has come a long way since the days when volunteers worked in the area in local mom and pop stores or as fishermen. He said due to the high cost of living in the area it has become prohibitive for many to establish careers near where they live, and work schedules make it impossible for them to volunteer.

He said the department also has seen a significant rise in the median age of its members. Many of the district’s senior members no longer qualify as interior firefighters due to their advancing age. This becomes an issue during daytime hours.

“Our district today has a daytime population of nearly 95,000 people which includes most of the university, the hospital and the Belle Mead Road corridor,” Gardiner said. “According to the National Fire Protection Association, this categorizes our district as an urban population and the guidelines require a certain number of firefighters as well as an average response time for incidents. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure we are in reach of this guideline to ensure the safety of our residents.”

Gardiner said the district has been replacing retired fire coordinators with per diem workers who have professional firefighting experience. Under the state’s civil service laws, the fire coordinators handled tasks such as fire hydrant and commercial building inspections, but not legally allowed to respond to calls for help.  By changing their position to that of a firefighter, they will begin responding to active fires alongside the volunteers.

The district is looking to have three paid firefighters during the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Since the coordinators were already on the payroll, the change of position to paid firefighters will not affect the district’s budget.

Gardiner added there is no intention to fully replace the volunteer system, but the coordinators-turned-firefighters will help augment the volunteers already in place.

“God help us if your proposal to pay three or four firefighters causes a drop in volunteer morale and participation.”

— Tom Gulbransen

“This is not an indictment on the volunteers,” he said. “We have said this over and over again. We are all proud of the work of our fire and EMS volunteers.”

Ken Larsen, firefighter and honorary chief, read a letter from volunteer Tom Gulbransen, who felt the district was giving too much attention to paid staff. He asked the commissioners to reconsider the best method to address the shortage of available volunteers to respond to daytime calls. Gulbransen suggested the fire department and district could work together to develop multiple options.

“God help us if your proposal to pay three or four firefighters causes a drop in volunteer morale and participation,” Larsen read. “It is unsafe and unprofessional to propose these myopic single steps in isolation.”

Former Commissioner Ed Forrester said he felt there hasn’t been enough conversation about the title change, and while he opposed the plan, he said if the commissioners could explain why it’s an absolute need he would back them 100 percent.

“I really think it’s going to be the beginning of the death of the volunteer fire system,” Forrester said. “It’s going to spread like the wildfires out East and it’s going to Selden and Centereach and Coram, and everyone is going to say they need this. I actually feel it’s a want right now.”

Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol Bureau, assisted by New York State Police, arrested seven people during an overnight sobriety checkpoint in Huntington Station.

Suffolk police officers, with the assistance of state troopers, conducted a sobriety checkpoint at the corner of New York Avenue and Church Street in Huntington Station. The checkpoint was conducted as part of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Saturation Saturday, a high-visibility evening where police departments step up their enforcement efforts to remind communities that they are out in full force, looking for impaired drivers as the Labor Day holiday approaches. A total of 417 vehicles went through the checkpoint.

The following people were charged with driving while intoxicated:

  • Jeffrey Hindla, 29, of Sayville
  • Raymond Archer, 51, of Huntington Station
  • Selena Piliere, 29, of Huntington Station
  • Suellen Gordon, 54, of Huntington Station
  • James R. Roldos, 51, of Huntington Station

In addition, Nicole Gulmi, 34, of Melville, was charged with driving while impaired by alcohol. All of the above-named individuals will be arraigned Dec. 23 at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Hixon Flores-Hernandez, 21, of Huntington Station, was charged with one count of driving while ability impaired by drugs. He was processed by state police and released on bail.

File photo

Suffolk County’s 4th Squad detectives are investigating a crash that killed a bicyclist in Kings Park Aug. 24.

Kings Park resident William Parmentier III was riding his bicycle eastbound on the north sidewalk of Pulaski Road, when he attempted to cross the road, east of King Street, to the south side of Pulaski Road at approximately 10:40 a.m. Parmentier, 50, struck the side of a 1995 GMC van and was transported via Kings Park Fire Department Rescue Squad to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition with a fractured skull. He died Aug. 25 of injuries sustained in the accident.

The van’s driver, a man from Islip, was not injured and remained at the scene. A safety check was conducted on the van at the scene of the crash.

Detectives ask anyone with information to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

A Suffolk County Police Department boat. File photo by Alex Petroski

An overturned kayak in the Long Island Sound required emergency rescue services from the Suffolk County Police Department Aug. 23.

The Suffolk County Police Department received a 911 call regarding a man who was in distress after his kayak overturned in the Long Island Sound, approximately two miles north of the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant at 11:52 a.m. Thursday, according to police. Aviation Section Officers John Carey and Richard Davin responded in the police helicopter, located the kayaker and guided Marine Bureau Officers Steven Tarolli and Christopher Erickson, who were onboard Marine Delta, to the victim. Officers Tarolli and Erickson were able to pull the victim onto the boat. The Wading River Fire Department and Town of Brookhaven Bay Constable assisted in the rescue.

The victim, Andrew Punella, 61, of Queens, was transported by the Wading River Fire Department to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead for treatment of hypothermia.