Police & Fire

It was no sweat for the Town of Huntington officials to open their first interactive spray water park July 11 to the sound of children laughing and playing in the summer heat.

The Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park, located along Cuba Hill Road in Elwood Park, is  dedicated to Huntington native and fallen New York City police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo whose family attended the park’s opening.

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met,” Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, said. “Even though the smiles don’t make up for all the heartbreak that my family and I have suffered, it does prove just how much Paul did and how much he meant to his fellow officers and his community.”

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met.”

– Lisa Tuozzolo

The interactive spray park contains multiple water features, including several button- activated water jets, water spraying hoops and overhead buckets that fill up and dump down onto children’s heads. The largest bucket that hangs several meters off the ground is labeled with big block letters spelling “NYPD.”

A 19-year veteran of the NYPD, Tuozzolo was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx in November 2016 when he was shot and killed responding to what was initially reported as a home
invasion, and later found to be a domestic incident. A police dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into the home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect shot Tuozzolo, who later died of his injuries.

“The Sergeant made the ultimate sacrifice, he warned other officers of the same fate,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “But let’s not reflect on how he died, but on how he lived. He believed in service and love for the community.”

The police officer is survived by his wife and two young sons Austin and Joseph. The family was strongly involved with the initial proposal for the park and later its design, according to former Huntington
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) when the project was first announced in September 2017.

“This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen,” Terry Monahan, NYPD’s chief of department, said. “To have this in his hometown really means something.”

This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen.”

– Terry Monahan

The park is 4,900 square feet in area with 2,500 square feet of active play features, according to town Civil Engineer Ed Parrish, the project manager for the spray park. Parrish added that the spray pad water runoff will be collected and reused for field irrigation at Elwood Park.

Right up until a week before the park opened last minute touches were being added, including the gate’s memorial trellis, which was installed July 5. Town spokesperson Lauren Lembo said that the project was
finished on schedule, but a new sanitary system for the park is expected to be finished by spring 2019.

Ridge-based Laser Industries Inc. and its subcontractors were paid approximately $610,000 to build the spray park, which included installing the new waterlines, spray features, concrete and safety features as well as the custom park benches and memorial trellis. Town of Huntington employees were paid $50,000 to install a new 4-inch water line into the park as well as the sprinkler system, sidewalk and fencing.

Parrish said that trained staff are being provided with first aid equipment and umbrellas to monitor the kids at play.

Only children age 13 or younger are allowed to use the spray park. Parents or guardians must show a Resident Recreation Photo ID or that day’s picnic permit to gain access to the park. Official hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but with this year’s planned playground camp being held at Elwood Park, it will be open to the public from Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 8 p.m. now through Aug. 10.

Officer James Behrens assists Luis Ramirez back to shore after his canoe capsized in Miller Place. Photo from SCPD

The decisive and brave actions of a Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct officer likely saved a life Wednesday morning.

Officer James Behrens rescued two men after their canoe capsized in the Long Island Sound July 11 at about 600 feet off shore near Landing Road in Miller Place, according to police.

Behrens responded to a 911 call reporting men yelling for help in the Long Island Sound in Miller Place at about 9:20 a.m.. The officer arrived on the beach and grabbed a life ring from his police vehicle and a paddle board from a local residence, and then swam out to the men and offered assistance, police said.

Town of Brookhaven Bay Constable Steven Bennett arrived on a boat and assisted Behrens with pulling the first man, Edgar Guirola-Hernandez, 33, of Brentwood, out of the water. Suffolk County Marine Bureau Officers Neil Stringer and Christopher Erickson arrived aboard Marine Delta and pulled Officer Behrens and the second man, Luis Ramirez, 44, of Centereach, out of the water. The victims were wearing life jackets.

The victims were evaluated by the Miller Place Fire Department at the Cedar Beach Marina and refused further medical treatment.

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By Anthony Petriello

One of New York City’s finest is bringing a wealth of experience to Suffolk County.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office recently announced the hiring of Kevin Catalina, a 26-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, as Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s (D) new undersheriff, the department’s second in command.

Newly appointed Suffolk County Undersheriff Kevin Catalina. Photo from Suffolk County Sheriff’s office

As of Aug. 1, Catalina, 51, will get started in the position, joining current Undersheriff Steve Kuehhas, who was appointed to the post by Toulon’s predecessor Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (R) and will continue serving in that role. Catalina was born and raised in Sayville, graduated from Sayville High School, and has lived on Long Island his entire life.

Toulon spoke highly of Catalina, and said he is optimistic about the value he can add to the department.

“During my six months in office, I was searching for the very best talent to help me lead the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office into the future, and we are very fortunate that Kevin has accepted the position of undersheriff,” Toulon said in a statement.  He is a resident of Long Island and knows our communities well, but he also brings a high level of expertise from the NYPD that will help drive innovation and reduce crime in Suffolk County.”

Catalina has a vast and varied history with the NYPD, having served in many crucial positions, and including in the NYPD’s counter-terrorism and counter-gang initiatives. He is currently serving as the deputy chief and commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau in the Operational and Analytical Section, which oversees all proactive counter-terrorism investigations in New York City.

He started with the NYPD in 1992. He was promoted to sergeant in 1998, and soon after was transferred to the Queens Gang Squad as a sergeant. He was then promoted two times within the Queens Gang Squad to lieutenant and then captain, where he served until 2005.

Catalina then transferred to Manhattan, where he was put in charge of an upper-Manhattan precinct covering public housing. He was later promoted once again to deputy inspector and was put in charge of Manhattan’s 32nd Precinct. After three years in charge of the 32nd, he was transferred and became the captain of the 44th Precinct in the Bronx, which covers Yankee Stadium and the surrounding area.

When NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was reinstated in 2014, Catalina was placed as the captain of the NYPD’s Citywide Gang Unit, where he oversaw more than 350 detectives, and developed and implemented all gang investigative and suppression strategies utilized throughout the city . According to the NYPD, he is recognized as a subject-matter expert in gang violence and crime reduction strategies, and pioneered an initiative in the South Bronx that resulted in a 40 percent reduction in shooting incidents.

“During my six months in office, I was searching for the very best talent to help me lead the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office into the future, and we are very fortunate that Kevin has accepted the position of undersheriff.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

In 2016, Catalina was transferred to Manhattan North and became the executive officer, second in command, of all precincts above 59th Street. He then made his final transfer to commanding officer of the Operational and Analytical Section, where he will serve until July 31st.

Catalina said he was confident his experience in gang relations would be effective in dealing with the gang MS-13, one of the foremost concerns for law enforcement in Suffolk County currently.

“We really started to understand the gang issue around 2010 or 2011 and we saw a dramatic drop in violence,” he said. “We put together violence conspiracy cases using every possible bit of information we could get from social media, to jail calls and text messaging. We were able to prove conspiracies to commit violent acts, and once these kids realized they could actually get in trouble, the violence was seriously curtailed. MS-13 is no different than any other gang. People look at them like they’re this big bad organization, but ultimately they’re no different than the gangs we dealt with in New York City.”

Toulon said he was also optimistic about the success of the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, which he implemented a few months back prior to learning of Catalina’s interest in the undersheriff position. Toulon said he visited Washington D.C. to garner more funding for the program. Gang activity in Suffolk has become a topic of national discussion, thanks in large part to the light shone on it by President Donald Trump (R), including in a visit he made to the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood in 2017.

“Gang recruitment usually starts at the middle school level, and that’s what the GREAT program is geared towards,” Toulon said. “We have deputy sheriffs and corrections officers that work with these kids in communities that are adversely affected by gangs, and I’m advocating for additional funding [for this program].”

Catalina’s addition, joining Kuehhas, will help round out the leadership in the sheriff’s office, according to Toulon.

“I was looking for another component because Steve Kuehhas, who will be remaining with me, has a strong legal background, and my background is in corrections, so adding Undersheriff Catalina with a strong police background brings a great asset to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

Long Island Sound. File photo

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued three men after their canoe overturned in the Long Island Sound in Northport Friday.

An employee of PSEG’s Northport Power Station observed three males in the Long Island Sound hanging onto their canoe that had overturned approximately 300 yards off shore July 6, according to police. The individual called Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau directly and Officers Paul Carnival, Keith Walters and John Falcone responded at approximately 2:50 p.m.

The officers arrived approximately three minutes later and assisted Javier Villatoro, 27, of Brentwood, his brother Jose Villatoro, 25, of Central Islip and Odir Vilorio, 30, of Huntington Station, onto Marine Bravo. Villatoro was the only person wearing a life jacket.

The men and their canoe were transported to the Soundview boat ramp in Northport. The men refused medical attention.

Emergency personnel from Suffolk County Police Department investigate a report of a suspicious package — an unattended backpack — in Port Jeff Village July 8. Photo by Alyssa Cutler

A suspicious package turned a sunny Sunday in the village into an alarming afternoon.

At about 11 a.m. July 8, Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct officers and Emergency Service Section officers responded to a 911 call regarding a backpack left unattended on Arden Place west of East Main Street in Port Jefferson Village, according to police.

At about noon, village Mayor Margot Garant posted on Facebook that Arden Place, Thompson Street and East Main Street were temporarily closed while bomb squad members investigated a suspicious package.

“Please stay clear of the area and be patient while Suffolk does their job,” she wrote.

At about 2 p.m., she posted again, letting residents and visitors know the situation had been resolved and the area was back open for business.

“Go about your business Port Jefferson and thank you Suffolk County bomb squad, SCPD and our Code Enforcement Bureau,” she said.

SCPD said it was determined the backpack contained baby clothes.

“Fireworks are a great way to celebrate the July 4th holiday and our independence, but be smart and stay safe.”

That’s what Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said when he joined with officials from the Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, and local fire chiefs to provide safety tips for residents ahead of the Fourth of July, as well as demonstrate the dangers of possessing and using fireworks. During the event, police officials showcased the dangers of fireworks by igniting a collection of pyrotechnics in a residential shed, a typical storage place for illegal fireworks.

The United State Consumer Protection Agency indicates that an average of 230 people in the United States visit the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries around the 4th of July holiday every year. In 2017, fireworks accounted for approximately 1,200 emergency department treated injuries associated with sparklers nationwide.

“We are here today to talk about the 4th of July and how we all love to get together and celebrate,” Bellone said. “We always hear about these incidents happening and they are unnecessary, preventable injuries.”

He urged parents to disallow children to use or ignite fireworks or sparklers. Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) put forward legislation to ban sparklers to ensure they are out of the hands of children.

“This is something I know was very important to the fire services here,” Bellone said of the legislation. “They did a tremendous job and I want to say kudos to them and thank them for their leadership on this issue. In addition to the great work of our fire departments, and fire rescue and emergency services personnel, Suffolk County will be exercising zero tolerance when it comes to the possession, use and sale of illegal fireworks.”

He urged residents to instead get out and see professional fireworks displays throughout the weekend.

“Celebrate our country’s independence and gather together with our families and our loved ones and our friends and have a great time as a country,” he said. “It’s a unifying day for our country. Sometimes we have these heated battles in our country and it’s easy to forget that we are one great country. The 4th of July is always a great time to celebrate that we are Americans and we’re proud of that.”

Some of the fireworks displays throughout Suffolk County:

  • Grucci fireworks at Bald Hill July 4 at 9:15 p.m.
  • Peconic Riverfront in Riverhead July 5 at 9:30 p.m.
  • Peconic Bay Medical Center festival July 6 at 6164 Route 25A in Wading River at 10 p.m.
  • Crescent Beach in Shelter Island July 7 at 9 p.m.
  • Post-game fireworks display at the Long island Ducks stadium July 7

Suffolk County 6th Precinct police officer Jon-Erik Negron and Bryce Pappalardo, whom he helped save after the family gave birth to the not-breathing baby in their kitchen. Photo from SCPD

Mount Sinai teacher Mike Pappalardo felt such a special bond with officer Jon-Erik Negron, who helped save his newborn son Bryce after being born in the family’s kitchen last August, that he named him Bryce’s godfather.

“He’s been there for Bryce since his first breath,” Pappalardo said. “He’s just so genuine and asked us to keep in touch with him, to let him know how Bryce is doing. It made us think, ‘You know what? We want him in his life.’”

Suffolk County police officer Jon-Erik Negron and the Pappalardo family at baby Bryce’s christening, where Negron was named the baby’s godfather. Photo from SCPD

The Mount Sinai Middle School special education teacher and coach first met the 6th Precinct offer Aug. 22 when he responded to his home after his wife Jane went into labor in the family’s home. Bryce was delivered by his father, but was not breathing, and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Even after Mike Pappalardo removed the cord, the newborn still hadn’t taken a breath. Officer Negron used a plastic syringe from the family’s kitchen to clear fluid from Bryce’s airway, and the baby began breathing.

“We have always had a connection,” said Negron, who speaks weekly with the family. “I’m just happy to play a role and I’m happy to always be there and always help because I know Bryce is going to grow up to do great things.”

The Pappalardo family said asking Negron to be the godfather was a no-brainer.

“Before even asking him to be the godfather, we felt like he already was,” Pappalardo said. “It was an easy choice. We were just hoping it would be ok with him and when we asked him, he said he was blown away and would be honored, but we were honored he agreed. We consider Jon-Erik family now.”

The officer was bestowed the honor during Bryce’s christening June 23 at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson.

“I don’t know if Bryce would be here if it wasn’t for his quick thinking and knowledge,” Pappalardo said of Negron. “He’s emotionally connected to Bryce and he truly cares about him and what happens in his life. Jon-Erik and Bryce have a special connection that will last a lifetime.”

“This superseded anything I imagined on having an impact as a police officer.”

— Jon-Erik Negron

Several months ago, the Pappalardos publicly thanked Officer Negron as well as 6th Precinct officer Ferdinando Crasa, fire rescue and emergency service dispatcher Steve Platz and SCPD public safety dispatcher Jonathan Eck, for their efforts during the delivery.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said congratulations to Negron are in order.

“I am truly thankful for all first responders out there like officer Negron, and it warms my heart to see their tireless work appreciated in this sincere act of gratitude,” he said.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart also commended Negron for his heroic effort.

“Bryce is lucky to have Officer Negron is in his life as a wonderful role model,” she said. “We are so grateful that baby Bryce is healthy and thriving due in part to our first responders.”

Negron has been a Suffolk County police officer for four-and-a-half years. He said playing a role in a baby delivery never crossed his mind when he thought of becoming a police officer.

“This superseded anything I imagined on having an impact as a police officer,” he said. “This is probably the most meaningful thing that will happen to me on this job and it exceeded all expectations.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police 5th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a 53-year-old Port Jefferson Station man in Bohemia early July 3.

Eric Cohen exited his 2015 Ford F350 on the right shoulder of westbound Sunrise Highway, just west of the Oakdale-Bohemia Road overpass, when he was struck by an unknown vehicle at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Cohen was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore for treatment of serious injuries.

Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to call the 5th Squad at 631-854-8552.

It looked like special effects from a movie scene playing out on the harbor.

At about 1 p.m. Sunday, July 1, a 33-foot Sea Ray Sundancer boat caught fire in Port Jefferson Harbor near the Danfords Hotel & Marina dock, according to police. The cause of the fire is under investigation by Arson Squad detectives, police said. Four Connecticut natives were onboard the boat when it burst into flames — Charles Schwartz, 59, who owned the boat; Ainsley Lothrop, 30; David Lamontagne, 47; and Robert Corbi, 31.

Suffolk County Police Sgt. Michael Guerrisi was off-duty at the time and onboard his own personal boat nearby, police said. The four occupants of the boat jumped into the water to escape the burning vessel, according to the Port Jefferson Fire Department Chief Brennan Holmes’ office, and Guerrisi aided in pulling the boaters from the water to safety onto his boat.

“Kudos to Port Jeff Fire Department — responded immediately to contain the fire — fantastic job,” Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant posted on Facebook, thanking the neighboring fire departments for lending a hand. First responders from Setauket, Terryville and Mount Sinai fire departments arrived at the scene of the incident to help extinguish the flames.

“Thank you to Port Jefferson EMS for providing rehab to the firefighters working on scene as well as emergency medical care to the vessel’s occupants,” a message on PJFD’s Facebook page read.

The occupants of the boat were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to SCPD.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol Bureau, assisted by the New York State Police, arrested seven people during an overnight sobriety checkpoint in the Port Jefferson Station area June 29-30.

Police officers conducted a sobriety checkpoint at the corner of Route 25A and Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson Station. The checkpoint was conducted as part of ongoing July 4th holiday enforcement operations for the prevention of injuries and fatalities associated with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs. A total of 603 vehicles went through the checkpoint.

The following people were charged with driving while intoxicated:

  • Michele Best, 40, of East Islip
  • Roger Piacentini, 55, of Coram
  • George Gallo, 49, of Rocky Point
  • Blanca Escobar-Avalos, 32, of Washington, D.C.
  • Christian Ramos, 21, of South Setauket

The following were charged with driving while ability impaired:

  • Tariq Rana, 27, of Coram
  • David Vargas, 53, of Hauppauge

The above individuals were scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip June 30.

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