A shot in the neck was close to fatal for a Suffolk County cop injured in the line of duty, according to a details of the struggle with his alleged shooter law enforcement officials recapped last week.
District Attorney Tom Spota released new details surrounding the March 11 shooting of Suffolk County Police Officer Mark Collins in a news conference on Friday afternoon. The DA said after investigators spoke with Collins, they found out the play-by-play of what happened that night in Huntington Station.
The suspect, Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Huntington Station was indicted by a grand jury in Riverhead on Friday shortly before the news conference. Leftenant pleaded not guilty to attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, resisting arrest and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
The suspect could be facing up to life in prison if convicted of the charges, Spota said.
Collins, who worked for the 2nd Precinct’s gang unit, pulled over the vehicle where Leftenant, who is allegedly a member of the “Tip Top Boyz” gang, was a passenger. After being asked to get out of the vehicle, the suspect fled out of the right rear passenger door and Collins chased after him.
“Collins gave chase, he had his police-issued taser in hand,” Spota said. “He never drew his weapon.”
The officer continued to chase Leftenant when he cornered the suspect, after Leftenant was not being able to open a gate at 11 Mercer Court. A confrontation took place and the officer tasered Leftenant. The officer was unaware the suspect had a gun, Spota.
“Collins successfully deployed his taser twice in Leftenant’s back and while it brought the defendant to the ground, unfortunately it did not completely immobilize him,” Spota said.
The officer dropped down to handcuff Leftenant when a struggle ensued. At that point, Collins was on top of Leftenant and reported seeing two blue flashes and hearing four gunshots in quick succession. The officer was shot in the neck and hip. The neck shot, had it been any closer, could have hit the carotid artery and killed him, officials said.
“Police Officer Collins knew right away he had been shot because he couldn’t feel anything on his right side and he couldn’t move at all his right arm or his right leg,” Spota said.
Collins began to try and drag himself over to a stoop on the property, as he was trying to protect himself the best he could.
“He tried to draw his weapon, but he had lost the complete use of his right arm, right leg, that’s why he is actually crawling to get over here,” the DA said, pointing to a spot on a photo of the crime scene where the officer went to protect himself.
Spota said Collins knew the gun was .38 caliber revolver and that there were at least two shots left. He covered himself with his police-issued bullet proof vest and faced it towards the suspect, as he felt Leftenant would walk over and shoot him again.
After allegedly shooting the officer, Leftenant fled and dropped the weapon in the backyard of 13 Mercer Court. He then ran about a quarter-mile away from the scene and hid. According to Spota, canine units quickly arrived and found the gun and Leftenant.
Two bullets were found inside the Mercer Court home where the struggle took place. While people were home as the two struggled outside, no one was injured by the shots.
After court, Leftenant’s lawyer Ian Fitzgerald said the defendant was sorry to be in this situation, but wouldn’t comment any further.
“I don’t think he showed any mercy at all, after all he fires two shots one in his neck virtually point blank range, that doesn’t tell me there is any mercy at all,” Spota said.
During Leftenant’s arraignment, a handful of the suspect’s family members were in the audience. While they wouldn’t comment, they left the courtroom chanting, “Free Shel.”