Police & Fire

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A pedestrian was seriously injured in Huntington Station on Wednesday night as he tried to cross Jericho Turnpike.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 15-year-old Carlos Veliz-Hernandez was trying to cross the busy turnpike in his hometown, just west of Melville Road, when he was hit by a 2008 BMW at 9:15 p.m.

Carlos was in serious condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said, while the BMW’s 56-year-old driver, a Huntington Station resident, was not hurt.

Police impounded the BMW for safety checks.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad are investigating the crash. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8252.

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Photo from Jeff Bressler

The Smithtown Fire Department is in the final stages of having its historic 1935 Mack Ladder Truck fully restored. A Department Restoration Committee has been given the task of having this piece of Long Island history returned to its former glory.

The restoration is not using Fire Department funds or taxpayer dollars for the project. The entire restoration is being funded by the generosity of Smithtown Fire Department members and the general community.

For the second consecutive year the Restoration Committee will host a chicken barbecue at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1, featuring the sounds of South Bound, a popular Long Island country band. Entry is $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the event.

Last year’s event was enthusiastically received with hundreds of music lovers in attendance to enjoy a complete BBQ chicken dinner, hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, beer and wine. The event is held on the scenic Nissequogue River at the department’s River Property, located behind 419 West Main St., Smithtown.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County police are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Bohemia bicyclist in Lake Ronkonkoma on Tuesday evening.

Laura Heerbrandt, 23, of Ronkonkoma, was driving a 2014 Nissan eastbound on Portion Road when her car struck Luis Benitez, 51. According to police, Benitez swerved into her lane of traffic as he was traveling westbound on Portion Road.

Benitez was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Heerbrandt was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to contact the Fourth Squad at (631) 854-8452.

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A man was killed in Selden on Monday evening when his car collided with a Suffolk County Transit bus.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 20-year-old Zachary Rauso was driving south on Dare Road shortly before 6 p.m. when he crashed with the bus, which had been traveling in the opposite direction.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

A physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner pronounced Rauso, a Selden resident, dead at the scene.

The bus was carrying just one passenger at the time of the crash, police said. Both that passenger and the 52-year-old bus driver were treated for minor injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Police impounded Rauso’s car, a 1999 Mercury, for a safety check, while the SCPD’s Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section inspected the bus and towed it away from the scene.

Detectives from the 6th Squad are investigating the collision, including its cause.

Anyone who witnessed the crash and has not yet been interviewed by police is asked to call the detectives at 631-854-8652.

From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook

By Phil Corso

A risky U-turn in Cutchogue has left the greater Smithtown community directionless.

From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook
From left, Amy Grabina, Brittney Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook

A limousine filled with friends doing the right thing fell victim to a driver who was doing the wrong thing when Steven Romeo, 55, was driving his red pickup truck in Cutchogue allegedly under the influence of alcohol and collided with the limousine as it attempted to make a U-turn near the intersection of Depot Lane and County Route 48, killing four and injuring six, including Romeo, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said.

Emergency responders reported four victims dead on arrival, including Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack. The crash also injured driver Carlos Pino, 58, of Bethpage, Joelle Dimonte, 25, of Elwood, Melissa Angela Crai, 23, of Scarsdale, Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket, and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn, all of whom were still hospitalized on Monday, Spota said.

Romeo was arraigned on Sunday at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport due to injuries sustained in the crash and pleaded not guilty to one count of driving while intoxicated. He was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond, Spota said.

Spota provided more details on the accident at a press conference in Southold on Monday afternoon alongside Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, who was on the scene soon after the collision.

“This was a gathering of young women who were behaving responsibly by hiring a limo for the day, enjoying the North Fork vineyards together,” Spota said. “They knew they would be consuming some alcohol, and because they wanted to act responsibly, they did not choose to drive.”

Spota said the limousine kicked off its Saturday afternoon bachelorette party trip at Baruch’s home in Smithtown, embarking on a vineyard tour on the eastern part of Long Island, stopping at the Long Island Vodka distillery in Baiting Hollow and then Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue. They were on their way back to Smithtown when the driver of the limousine, who Spota said was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, made the turn and the fatal accident occurred.

The news sent shockwaves through Smithtown and the entire North Shore, moving Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) to order all flags at town buildings to fly at half-mast.

DA Tom Spota speaks about an alleged DWI that killed four women at a bachelorette party. Photo by Phil Corso
DA Tom Spota speaks about an alleged DWI that killed four women at a bachelorette party. Photo by Phil Corso

“The entire Smithtown community is affected by such a tragic loss and mourns deeply,” Vecchio said in a statement. “The shock of the loss of four young and beautiful women in the prime of life is difficult to comprehend. We pray for the families and friends who are suffering so.”

Belli, Baruch and Schulman were all decorated members of the national and language honor societies by the time they graduated from Smithtown High School West and were remembered Monday as shining lights in their graduating classes. Schools Superintendent James Grossane said Belli, a 2010 graduate, had an infectious smile and was an enthusiastic student and member of the district’s championship kick line team. Baruch, a 2009 graduate, was best known for her booming laugh and unforgettable smile, Grossane said. Schulman, he said, was another 2010 graduate and had a profound love for her family.

“The Smithtown School District administration, Board of Education, staff and school community are truly saddened over the horrific tragedy involving the deaths of three former High School West graduates,” Grossane said. “Although these girls graduated from the district several years ago, their personalities and memories they left behind are still remembered by those who had the honor and pleasure of knowing them while in school.”

Grabina graduated in 2010 from Commack High School and went on to pursue accounting at Florida State University, ultimately landing a job at Ernst & Young in Tallahassee, Florida. Brenda Lentsch, a spokeswoman for Commack High School, said in a statement the loss was difficult to put into words.

“This terrible tragedy affects our entire community, and all who knew them,” she said. “We send our heartfelt sympathies to their parents, family and friends. The Commack community always rallies around those in need.”

She and her former classmate Arundel were in the limo on Saturday, but only the latter made it out alive.

Both the speed of Romeo’s vehicle and his blood alcohol content were still not known, pending results as per the investigation, the DA said. Spota did say, however, that the man had admitted to drinking beer that afternoon before the crash.

Flatley, who responded to the crash soon after it was dispatched around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, said Romeo remained at the scene for about 15 minutes following the collision, but then took off on foot and jumped a fence before police were able to retrieve him for questioning. The police chief said a witness was able to help provide details regarding the limousine accident, which has become all too common for that area.

“Over the last two or three years, we’ve had issues with limousines making very difficult turns at that intersection and we have been writing summonses for failing to yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are in the westbound direction at that intersection,” he said. “I’m sure we write at least, especially during the busier months, at least 10 or 12 summonses a month.”

Spota said Romeo, who will be processed at the Southold Police Department upon his release from the hospital, had not acquired any DWI-related charges before Saturday’s crash. No information on the possibility of additional charges was provided.

The horrific tragedy occurred just six days after another accident allegedly linked to driving while intoxicated, Spota said. Last week, another fatal crash on the Southern State Parkway killed 37-year-old Ancio Ostane, his 8-year-old son, Andy, and his 4-year-old daughter, Sephora, in what police charged as another alcohol-related hit-and-run accident.

Inspector Edward Brady, the precinct's commanding officer, is sent off in style

Police Inspector Edward Brady shakes hands with officers at his farewell on Friday, July 17. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Police Inspector Edward Brady shakes hands with officers at his farewell on Friday, July 17. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct said goodbye to its leader of more than five years on Friday afternoon with a salute and gathering of his friends and family.

Inspector Edward Brady served on the police force for 36 years, joining in October 1979 after graduating from the police academy. He became the commanding officer of the 2nd Precinct in 2009, and served at the helm for approximately five and a half years.

Brady was honored at the Huntington Town Board meeting, on Tuesday, July 14, where he was given a proclamation from Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), who also attended the salute to Brady on Friday afternoon.

Officers applaud Police Inspector Edward Brady during his farewell at the 2nd Precinct on Friday, July 17. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Officers applaud Police Inspector Edward Brady during his farewell at the 2nd Precinct on Friday, July 17. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“It was certainly emotional walking out,” he said. “The people I worked with here I have close relations with, some of them for many years. Some of the people here today I was in the police academy with back in ’79, so that’s 36 years of knowing them, of working with them, of going through difficult times with them, so it was emotional but it feels good to see this many people show up.”

3rd Precinct Deputy Inspector Christopher Hatton of Miller Place will take over for Brady.

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A masked man robbed a 7-Eleven in Hauppauge early Monday morning, injuring the clerk on duty.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the masked suspect, who was also wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants and sunglasses, entered the convenience store on Townline Road shortly before 2 a.m., displayed what appeared to be a gun and demanded cash from the clerk. After the clerk complied, giving him cash from the drawer, the assailant fled on foot, heading west on Townline.

The clerk suffered a minor injury during the holdup, police said. He was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital and released.

Police described the robber as being about 6 feet tall and having a thin build.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 4th Squad are investigating the robbery. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8452, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

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Story last updated on July 22, at 3 p.m.

Officers discovered a young man lying in the street after he was shot in Huntington Station on Saturday night, July 18.

Suffolk County police responded to a call shortly after 8 p.m. on 11th Avenue, across from Clifford Court, where they found Luis Hernandez with a gunshot wound in his leg.

Police said Hernandez was standing in the street in front of his house when he was shot, and the shooter’s identity is still unknown. Police said Hernandez was in stable condition at Huntington Hospital.

However, Alexandra Zendrian, director of public relations for North Shore-LIJ Health System, said on Tuesday in a phone interview that no one by the name of Luis Hernandez was in their directory.

Attempts to contact Hernandez this week were unsuccessful.

The shooting happened mere blocks from Huntington Manor Fire Department’s annual fireman’s fair, where many residents of Huntington Station were enjoying a fireworks show.

“Another one of our children [is] being wounded, what is it going to take to stop this?” June Margolin, a founder of Huntington Matters Neighborhood Watch said on Monday. Huntington Matters Neighborhood Watch was founded in 2014 due to the number of young casualties the community had suffered in the past two years.

The organization aims to unite citizens and law enforcement to deter crime and make the community safer.

The Huntington Station community is still feeling the effects of violence against its youth. On Thursday, July 16, friends and family of 18-year-old Maggie Rosales, 25-year-old Danny Carbajal and 23-year-old Sarah Strobel gathered at Depot Road Park for a memorial ceremony dedicated to the three Huntington Station youths that fell victim to crimes over the last two years.

Rosales was found stabbed to death, on Lynch Street in Huntington Station last October. Carbajal was shot in the head in July 2014 outside his Huntington Station home. Strobel’s body was found off the side of a path in Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in October 2013.

While police have charged Adam Saalfield of Huntington Station with Rosales’ murder, the other two victims have not yet seen justice, which is currently the same situation Hernandez is in.

“The police are working harder with us and I am looking forward to the new inspector at the 2nd Precinct, I hope there will be new ways to address this problem,” Margolin said. “But to me it doesn’t seem like this issue is slowing down.”

Celeste Nazario photo from SCPD

A missing Centereach woman who police said may have been suicidal has been found dead.

The Suffolk County Police Department had issued a Silver Alert for 60-year-old Celeste Nazario early Monday morning, under a program to help find missing people with special needs. Police said at the time that she had depression and was possibly suicidal, and asked for the public’s help to find the Rosemary Lane resident.

She had last been spotted on Saturday morning, when her landlord saw the Portuguese woman leave her house on foot at about 10 a.m.

Police said Monday evening that she had been found dead, and called the apparent cause of her death “non-criminal.”

Friends, family of young victims dedicate memorial to trio

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Friends and family of three Huntington Station youths who were killed over the last two years came together on Thursday evening to dedicate trees and a memorial stone in their honor.

The Huntington Town-sponsored memorial ceremony took place at Depot Road Park and featured friends and family of 18-year-old Maggie Rosales, 25-year-old Danny Carbajal and 23-year old Sarah Strobel, as well as a number of community members.

Rosales was found stabbed to death, lying on Lynch Street in Huntington Station last October. Carbajal was shot in the head in July 2014 outside his Huntington Station home. Strobel’s body was found off the side of a path in Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in October 2013.

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese
Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Town officials attended the memorial service and offered some words, town spokesman A.J. Carter said on Friday. Many community members took part in the effort, including Kathleen Kufs and Jim McGoldrick, two individuals who organized the event.

“To be honest with you, it was a sad thing that we had to do this, but in a way it brought the community together,” McGoldrick reflected in a phone call on Friday. “And the community is very concerned about our children, and our teenagers especially.”

While there’s still more to do, McGoldrick said “things are getting better” in Huntington Station. He said he got involved in efforts to extinguish crime in the neighborhood after Rosales was found dead in the street in front of his home.

Kufs said she came up with the idea for the memorial a few months ago. She wanted “to have a place for the families and friends of these poor young people who were murdered, a place to go for peace and reflection and for the community to remember that these young lives were lost but not forgotten, and also to shed light on the fact that two of them are still unsolved.”

Police have charged Huntington Station man Adam Saalfield with Rosales’ murder, but the other two victims have not yet seen justice.

“There’s no closure,” McGoldrick said. “Danny and Sarah’s murderers have never been caught. People are very concerned about that.”