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Suffolk County Police have arrested two people as a result of a month long investigation at businesses located within the 4th Precinct. Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which nine businesses were checked for compliance with the law in Commack, Smithtown, Kings Park and East Northport, according to police.

The following clerks were arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor after they sold alcohol to a minor.

  • Thomas Watson, 22, of Northport, employed at Speedway gas station, located at 152 East Northport Road, Kings Park
  • A 16 year-old male juvenile, employed at BP gas station located at 94 Pulaski Road, Kings Park.

The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Shell gas station, located at 700 Commack Road, Commack
  • BP gas station, located at 621 Commack Road, Commack
  • Citgo gas station, located at 100 Crooked Hill Road, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 2104 Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 38 Indian Head Road, Kings Park
  • Mobil gas station, located at 819 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
  • BP gas station, located at 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

Watson and the juvenile were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to appear in First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 2, 2018. The State Liquor Authority is conducting a follow up investigation.

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File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Alex Petroski

A Commack woman thought she could get out of a traffic ticket by calling, of all people, the police.

Marie Toussaint mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested a woman who called 911 to falsely report seeing two men with guns in an effort to avoid receiving traffic summonses in Commack, according to police. This is the second time in a week that a person made a 911 call to report a false emergency, police said.

A 2nd Precinct police officer pulled over Marie Toussaint Oct. 23 at about 11:15 a.m. on Jericho Turnpike, near Larkfield Road, in Commack after he observed her driving a 2011 Toyota Highlander that did not have valid registration plates. When the officer returned to his vehicle to write Toussaint summonses, she called 911 and falsely reported two men with guns running down the street in the vicinity of the traffic stop. The fraudulent call elicited a large police response from 2nd and 4th Precincts officers. The officer that stopped Toussaint also responded to the call, releasing her without writing any summonses. After a thorough search of the area, the call was determined to be unfounded. Further investigation revealed that Toussaint made the call from her vehicle after being stopped by the 2nd Precinct police officer.

Toussaint, 40, of Commack, surrendered at the 2nd Precinct Oct. 31 at about 5 p.m. Second Precinct Crime Section officers arrested Toussaint and she was charged with third-degree falsely reporting an incident, and second-degree obstructing governmental administration. She will also receive four summonses for the original traffic infractions. She was released on bail and will be arraigned at First District Court Jan. 11, 2018.

 

Commack sophomore Christian Berbert has appealed to Section XI to be allowed to compete on the girls varsity gymnastics team this season. Photo from the Berbert family

As young as 7, Christian Berbert knew what he wanted to do with his life. After his parents set up a trampoline in the backyard, Christian wasted no time in putting it to good use. The natural-born athlete approached the trampoline less as a fun accessory and more as a mini training facility.

“He was like a dolphin to water,” Wayne Berbert said of his son’s first foray into gymnastics. “He just started jumping and flipping within days of having it. This has always been his sport — nothing compares to this.”

But Christian, a Commack High School sophomore and member of Artistic Gymnastics in Hauppauge, is now being forced to defend his dream in front of a panel of county officials.

Christian, 15, has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to join the high school’s girls varsity gymnastics team this season despite three appeals before Section XI, the governing body of athletics in Suffolk County, since the start of the 2017 school year. Because there aren’t any varsity boys gymnastics team in New York State, competing with the girls is Christian’s only shot to pursue his passion in a school setting.

The sophomore has the overwhelming support from members of the girls gymnastics team, his school’s adminstrator and athletic director.

“We will continue to advocate to provide an opportunity for this young man to compete alongside the girls as we feel it would be in the best interests of our student to participate on the Commack team,” read a statement on the school district’s home page Oct. 10, the day of the most recent appeal.

However, the Section XI panel, headed by Executive Director Thomas Combs, has blocked each request, saying Christian carries too much of a competitive advantage over the girls because he actively trains as a gymnast. There is also a concern among the board that his placement on the team will take a spot away from a girl.

But their arguments don’t hold water, according to Christian’s parents, who have appeared in his defense during the appeals process. Berbert said it’s unfair to claim his son has a competitive advantage since he’s never actually competed against the girls “so there’s no way to determine that.”

He also added that just because Christian’s a boy, it’s wrong to assume he is physically stronger than the girls.

“In gymnastics, strength is not really a determining factor,” Berbert said. “And the girls team doesn’t cut anybody from the team so everyone would be able to participate.”

“It’s deplorable how people in public education can do this to a child,” Christian’s father said. “They should be doing everything in their power to include kids, not exclude them. He’s being told ‘you can’t do the thing you love to do’ and for a 15-year-old kid, that’s tough.”

Christian’s mother, Karen Berbert, said while she agrees with the notion that girls should have equal opportunities, “you can’t diminish the boys and take away from them.”

“The same thing that the board is arguing, that the girls should have every opportunity, and they should, but so should the boys,” said his mother, who fears her son’s inability to compete in high school could affect his chances at receiving scholarships for college. “He wants to be part of the school. He wants to be involved. Gymnastics is his right arm.”

In September, the girls on the team wrote personal letters to Section XI members in support of Christian’s appeal to compete.

Alexandra Lewis, a sophomore gymnast, said the team “will develop more teamwork, school spirit, and positivity by having [him].” Sophomore Stella Rentzeperis wrote it was unfair to deny Christian a chance to compete because “our gymnastics program does not say girls or boys … both genders are allowed.”

Lilli Ferro, a sophomore on the team, said Christian comes to every practice and meet.

“We all really like him and he really wants to be on the team,” Lilli said. “I don’t believe it would hurt us if he was on the team. He would help us.”

Christian’s situation coincides with that of Liam Summers, a 15-year-old sophomore and gymnast at Connetquot High School, who is currently being denied to join his school’s girls team by
Section XI. He was able to be on the team last season because he had never competed in school or in a private club. Now, with more experience, he’s looked at as having a competitive advantage.

Christian, who trains four days a week and three hours each day, said the Section XI board is not
doing the right thing.

“What they’re doing to me and all the other kids trying to do what I’m trying to do is all wrong and completely unfair,” Christian said. “I think I can do real well on the team and give them support and help and just make the team stronger and better. But they don’t see that and, instead, think I’m going to ruin the girls’ chances. They’re completely

Smithtown Library officials renamed the playground at the Kings Park branch after Otis Thornhill, who died in December 2016. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The work of a former Smithtown Library trustee will forever be remembered by the laughter of children playing.

The Smithtown Library rededicated the playground outside its Kings Park branch Oct. 7 to the late Otis Thornhill. A former library trustee he also served as president of The Friends of the Smithtown
Library for seven years.

“He saw the value of the library and the need for us to continue to improve the buildings; he worked tirelessly toward that end,” Anthony Monteleone, representing The Friends of the Smithtown Library, said. “Otis was a true person of the community. It’s people like him that make Smithtown what it is today.”

Thornhill and his family first moved to Commack in 2001. That same year the library playground was constructed as a joint effort between Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Smithtown, according to chamber president Tony Tanzi, in an attempt to draw residents to spend more time in the downtown area and shops.

“Come down here any day in the summer and you’ll see just that,” Tanzi said. “Moms and dads, and their kids, sitting downtown in Kings Park. That’s what it is all about.”

Smithtown Library officials renamed the playground at the Kings Park branch after Otis Thornhill, who died in December 2016. Photo from Facebook

In 2011, Thornhill was encouraged to run for a library trustee seat by Monteleone. He served until his death in December 2016.

“As a library trustee, he offered his support and guidance to make sure the library served the reading and educational needs of this community,” Robert Lusak, library director, said. “If I could say it to him, I would say I sorely, sorely miss the safe advice and guidance he provided to me as the director of The Smithtown Library. I will miss him very much.”

Thornhill and his wife, Elaine, were familiar faces around the community as they often worked together to sell 50/50 raffle tickets to raise funds for The Friends of the Smithtown Library during the summer concerts.

In addition to his service to the library, Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) remembered Thornhill as a member of the Rotary Club of Smithtown Sunrise, which regularly meets at the Millennium Diner in Smithtown. Wehrheim said his fellow Rotarian focused his efforts on his community, improving education and veterans. Thornhill served in the U.S. military reserves.

“I know that Otis is here looking down on us, looking down at his playground and his sign, and seeing those three things — education, veterans representation and a wonderful playground for the community,” Wehrheim said.

Dawn Bent, owner of Signarama in Huntington Station, made a memorial sign declaring the playground as The Otis M. Thornhill Memorial Playground. The sign also bears the names of those individuals and business who gave donations to offset the sign’s cost.

Eric Thornhill, Otis’ son, spoke on behalf of the family who said they were deeply touched by the tribute.

“It was a comfort to [Otis] to have this connection to you as he was progressing through his life,” he said of his father. “It meant everything. It kept him strong to the very end, and that meant everything to him. We are so appreciative that you also thought something of him.”

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Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a burglary at an occupied Commack home that occurred early this morning.

Two men entered a home on Orchard Lane at 2:12 a.m. and demanded money from the residents. One of the burglars struck a 27-year-old woman in the head with a gun and then struggled with the woman’s 54-year-old father. During the struggle between the two men, the homeowner’s Rottweiler ran into the room and the burglars fled with no proceeds.

The woman refused medical attention and the man was not injured.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

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File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested a Commack man Sept. 28 for multiple charges relating to a scam during which he took money from victims with the false promise of delivering vehicles.

Between December 2016 and September 2017, Emmanuel Amaral advertised cars for sale on Craigslist. Numerous victims paid him anywhere between $3,000 and $24,000 for a vehicle and waited several months for delivery, which never occurred. In one case, Amaral scammed a victim he met while in line at a bagel shop, and in another instance, defrauded a victim he met at an elementary school event. Amaral defrauded victims out of a total of approximately $73,000.

After an investigation by detectives from the Suffolk County Police, Property/Auto Crime Unit, Amaral was arrested in front of his residence at approximately 2 p.m. today.

Amaral, 48, was charged with seven counts of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheming to defraud.

Detectives are asking anyone who feels they may have been victimized by Amaral, who also uses the aliases Manny Balboa and Manny Amaral, to contact the Suffolk County Police, Property/Auto Crime Unit at 631-853-7114.

Amaral is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip and the investigation is ongoing.

A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

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By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County police arrested an Amityville woman, who is an employee of United Cerebral Palsy, for falsely reporting an incident about a sexual offense between an employee and a resident at the group home Sept. 13.

An anonymous caller made an allegation to the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs that a male employee of a United Cerebral Palsy residence, on Indian Head Road in Commack, inappropriately touched a female resident of the home. An investigation 4th Squad detectives determined the anonymous caller was another employee, Judy Campbell. Campbell, who had previously dated the male employee, admitted she lied about the allegation. A further investigation concluded no abuse occurred.

Campbell, 53, was arrested and charged with third-degree falsely reporting an incident. Campbell will be arraigned today at First District Court in Central Islip.

Alan Lepre mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police arrested Alan Lepre, 54, of formerly of East Northport, for robbery, grand larceny, and petit larceny.

The 2nd Precinct crime section arrested Lepre and charged him with:

  • Petit larceny at Mavis tire Larkfield Road in East Northport June 20
  • Petit larceny at Sheer Elegance on Larkfield Road in East Northport June 12
  • Petit larceny at Broadway Grooming on Broadway in Greenlawn June 27
  • Seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance for possessing heroin during his arrest.

The major case unit charged him with:

  • Third-degree robbery for the robbery of TD Bank on Montauk Highway in West Islip July 2
  • Third-degree robbery for the robbery of Suffolk Federal Credit Union on Jericho Turnpike in Commack July 5

The 2nd and 4th Precinct squad detectives charged him with:

  • Third-degree grand larceny for the theft of a motor vehicle from the Northport train station June 29
  • Fourth-degree grand larceny at Curtains and Home on Veterans Highway in Commack June 28
  • Fourth-degree grand larceny at Larkfield Lanes in East Northport June 20

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Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a robbery that occurred at Suffolk Federal Credit Union in Commack July 5.

A man entered the bank, located at 6150 Jericho Turnpike, at 1:20 p.m. and demanded cash from a teller. The teller complied and gave the man cash from the drawer. The man fled on foot.

The suspect was described as white, in his late 40s to early 50s, approximately 5 feet, 5 inches to 5 feet, 6 inches tall with a thin build and salt and pepper hair. He was wearing a white tank top and blue jeans.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call major case at 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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