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Kenneth Pellegrino was arrested after drugs, fireworks and weapons were seized from his Sound Beach home, following a search warrant executed by Suffolk County Police.

During the May 3 search, $7,000 worth of fireworks, 110 grams of heroin worth about $26,000, 75 grams of crack/cocaine worth approximately $4,500, 33 grams of marijuana and more than $1,800 in cash were found. A shotgun, digital scales, cell phones and drug packaging material were also seized.

Pellegrino, 42, was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, unlawfully dealing in fireworks and unlawfully storing fireworks.

“This is part of our enhanced narcotics strategy where we are cracking down on drug dealing in our communities,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “What’s important to note about this search warrant is that it began with calls to our 631-852-NARC line. We were able to get drugs off the street and a shotgun off the street that belonged to a drug dealer, and we were able to do that because of the assistance of the residents of Suffolk County.”

Pellegrino will be held overnight at the Seventh Precinct for arraignment at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

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A Rocky Point man was ejected from his vehicle as a result of a crash in Port Jefferson Station Feb. 22 and transported to Stony Brook Hospital for treatment of serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police. Sixth Squad detectives are investigating the two-vehicle crash.

Brian Carter was driving a 1975 Jeep westbound on Route 347 when he attempted to make a left turn onto Crystal Brook Hollow Road and his vehicle was struck by an eastbound 2009 Chevrolet at about 8:20 p.m.

Carter, 25, of Rocky Point, was ejected from the vehicle and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver of the Chevrolet, Zachary Pisoni, 24, of Medford, was not injured.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, gets signatures from residents in support of the Community Protection Act outside Stop & Shop in Miller Place. Photo from County Executive Bellone's office

By Kevin Redding

In light of recent court rulings and pending lawsuits in favor of sex offenders, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is urging the New York State Legislature to follow in the county’s footsteps and get tough on sex criminals by passing legislation that gives the county authorization to uphold its strict laws against them.

On Feb. 11, Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) spoke with parents and residents in Miller Place about supporting and protecting the rules within the Suffolk County Community Protection Act — a private-public partnership law developed by Bellone, victims’ rights advocates like Parents for Megan’s Law and law enforcement agencies. It ensures sex offender registration and compliance, and protects residents and their children against sexual violence — much to the dismay of local sex offenders, who have been suing the county to try to put a stop to the act.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker talk to residents about the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

“We’re encouraging people to go on to our Facebook page and sign the online petition,” Bellone said. “We want to get as many signatures as we can to communicate to our partners in the state that this is a priority that we pass legislation that makes it clear Suffolk County has the right to continue doing what it’s doing to protect our community against sex offenders.”

While the county executive said Suffolk representative have been supportive of the law, which was put in place four years ago, he wanted to make sure they’re armed with grassroots support to convince state colleagues they have a substantial evidence to prove it’s popularity and show it’s the right thing to do.

Since it was enacted in 2013, the Community Protection Act has been the nation’s strictest sex offender enforcement, monitoring and verification program, cracking down on all three levels of offenders when it comes to their proximity to a school facility or child-friendly area, and reducing sex offender recidivism in Suffolk County by 81 percent. Ninety-eight percent of Level 2 and more than 94 percent of Level 3 registrants are in compliance with photograph requirements, what Bellone said is a significant increase from before the law took effect.

Through its partnership with Parents for Megan’s Law, the county has conducted more than 10,000 in-person home verification visits for all levels of sex offenders, by sending retired law enforcement to verify sex offenders’ work and home addresses and make sure their registry is accurate and up to date. More than 300 sex offenders have also been removed from social media under the law.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the act is a critical piece of legislation.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it.”

—Steve Bellone

“The numbers don’t lie, there’s a lot of hard evidence and data that shows this act has done precisely what it was designed to do: monitor sex offenders and make sure they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to be doing,” Deputy Commissioner Justin Meyers said. “To date, I have never met a single resident in this county who didn’t support [it].”

Besides the sex offenders themselves, that is.

The act has made Suffolk County one of the more difficult places for registered sex offenders to live and, since its inception, Suffolk sex offenders have deemed its strict level of monitoring unconstitutional, arguing, and overall winning their cases in court that local law is not allowed to be stricter than the state law.

In 2015, the state Court of Appeals decided to repeal local residency restriction laws for sex offenders, claiming local governments “could not impose their own rules on where sex offenders live.”

In the prospective state legislation, Bellone hopes to close the sex offender loophole that would allow high-level sex offenders to be able to legally move into a home at close proximity to a school.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it,” Bellone said. “This is what we need to do to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect kids and families in our community. As a father of three young kids, this is very personal to me and I think that while we’ve tried to make government more efficient and reduce costs here, this is an example of the kind of thing government should absolutely be spending resources on.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, with a community member who signed his petition urging state lawmakers to uphold the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

To conduct all the monitoring and fund educational resources offered to the community by Parents for Megan’s Law — teaching parents what to look out for and how to prevent their children from becoming victims — costs roughly $1 million a year, according to Bellone.

In addition to the residential restriction, Bellone is calling on the state to authorize the county to verify the residency and job sites of registered sex offenders, authorize local municipalities to keep a surveillance on homeless sex offenders, who represent less than 4 percent of the offender population in Suffolk County, and require them to call their local police department each night to confirm where they’re staying, and require an affirmative obligation of all sex offenders to cooperate and confirm information required as part of their sex offender designation.

“If people really knew this issue, I couldn’t see how they would oppose the Community Protection Act, because sex offenders are not a common criminal; there’s something fundamentally and psychologically wrong with somebody who commits sexual crime and we as a society have to understand that,” said St. James resident Peter , who held a “Protect Children” rally in the area last years. “Residents should know that the sexual abuse of children is out of control.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls are abused and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

“It is imperative that we, not only as a community, but as a state, make efforts to further ensure the safety of our children from sexual predators,” Anker said. “We must do everything in our power to ensure that this law is upheld and that’s why I’ve joined [Bellone] in calling on the New York State Legislature to consider an amendment to grant the county the ability to uphold it.”

To sign the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/new-york-state-protect-our-children-support-the-community-protection-act.

Kids play with Nerf guns and dodgeballs with the local officers as part of Police Unity Night. Photo by Kevin Redding

Officers within the Suffolk County Police Department replaced their handguns and black shoes with Nerf blasters and orange “sky socks” Jan. 4 for a night of bouncy Nerf battles with local kids at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Mount Sinai.

When the officers and kids weren’t crouched behind inflatable bunkers dodging foam darts, together they dodged balls in “dodge-a-cop” matches, shot basketballs and leaped into a giant pit full of foam cubes.

Suffolk County 6th Precinct Crime Section Officer Anthony Napolitano prepares to hurl a dodgeball. Photo by Kevin Redding

SCPD’s young friends were even invited to sit in the front and back seats of the patrol cars, were shown how to turn on the sirens and lights and were allowed to use the car’s PA speaker.

Donned Police Unity Night, the event will take place the first Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. It started as a one-night dodgeball event over the summer by Sky Zone Director of Events Nicole Tumilowicz, as a way of showing support for SCPD and helping bridge the relationship between law enforcement and the people it serves.

It was such a big hit among the community, she said, she and her organization decided to host the event in collaboration with community liaison officers from the 3rd and 6th Precincts on a monthly basis in Mount Sinai. Events are also hosted with local police departments at the Sky Zone in Deer Park. Officers and their own children always jump for free, and each month the event will feature food donations from a different local business.

For $20, families poured into the popular indoor park for two hours of fun, community camaraderie and food — Brooklyn Bagels & Cafe of Rocky Point served sandwiches, bagels and cookies.

“This is our way of giving back and really getting involved,” Tumilowicz said. “We want to get the community together, have fun, increase police relations and give our guests a chance to interact with [the SCPD] on a different level and see them in a different light. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Sixth Precinct Community Liaison Officer Casey Hines, a former social worker who frequently speaks on public safety at local school districts, and has partnered with Sky Zone in training its staff on what to do in dangerous situations, said it’s important to her that the public isn’t intimidated and guarded when it comes to interacting with the police.

She wants people to know their names and see them as people they can go to for help.

“When these kids have a problem or they have somebody bullying them or they just need somebody to talk to, I want them to feel they can say ‘you know, I’m gonna call Casey about this and see what she says,’” Hines said. “It’s wonderful to be able to have a rapport with the community in a positive environment.”

Children goof around with cops outside Sky Zone in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

She’s also having fun.

“We’re jumping, and defenses are down [here],” she said. “The kids and parents know that we’re here to help them.”

Officer Todd Bradshaw, of the 6th Precinct’s Community Oriented Police Enforcement unit, echoed Hines’s feelings when reminiscing about the dodgeball event over the summer.

“I remember a few of the kids — one or two in particular — were really kind of nervous and taken aback by the fact that police were there playing dodgeball and bouncing with them,” he said. “But after a while, they saw us being goofy and loosening up, and then they felt comfortable smiling next to us and playing with us and then wailing dodgeballs at us. They realized we were approachable.”

Eufrasia Rodriguez, from Rocky Point, shared the Police Unity Night post on Facebook, and in doing so, wound up winning a free ticket for her son Justice, a 14-year-old boy with autism.

“I shared it because we have a charity called Justice 4 Autism and we figured this would be a great opportunity for kids to play with and meet the police,” Rodriguez said. “Justice was so excited to come and meet the police and jump. On our way here we heard police sirens and he was like ‘is that them?’”

Her son was quick to run up and take a picture with 6th Precinct Crime Section Officer Anthony Napolitano at the entrance.

“They’re all a bunch of good kids,” said Napolitano. “This means a lot to them; so hopefully it keeps them off the streets and inside.”

6th Precinct Community Liaison Officer Casey Hines talks to kids. Photo by Kevin Redding

Cameron Tyburski, a 12-year-old from Shoreham-Wading River Middle School, came to the event with some of his classmates.

“It’s great because there’s free food and I showed some of the cops how to do front flips,” Tyburski said.

“I feel protected,” Amanda Lahey, 12, said.

Kelly Riess, 12, whose dad is a cop, said this was her second time at one of the events.

“It’s really fun, and it’s great to go around and meet the cops and all the families,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea to do this.”

To end the night, in Sky Zone’s largest trampoline-covered arena, Hines and fellow officer Jennifer Mackey led their team of kids into a full-fledged Nerf war against Napolitano and his own group. Bouncing back and forth between trampolines, taking cover and loading up on foam darts in between shots, Hines’s “red team” took the victory.

“You can’t walk out of here without a huge smile on your face and feel awesome, it’s just great,” Hines said. “There’s nothing like having these little kids running up to you and being like ‘I shot you’ or ‘you got me … can you play again?’ It’s them just being real with us, and I love it.”

SCPD branch involves the community to help with tips for investigations and arrests

Drugs recovered thanks to tips from Crime Stoppers. File photo from SCPD

By Rebecca Anzel

During its 22-year partnership with the Suffolk County Police Department, Crime Stoppers has served as a way for residents to share tips about crime anonymously in their neighborhoods without fear of punishment, and has helped cut crime and aid myriad criminal investigations

The not-for-profit organization expanded its repertoire of resources to include a general tip line, 800-220-TIPS (8477); another tip hotline for information about drugs, 631-852-NARC (6272); a website and a number for text messaging. Since 1994, its 22,287 tips generated by community members helped solve 42 homicides, closed 1,688 active warrants and led to 2,154 arrests, as at October.

Crime Stoppers president Nick Amarr. Photo from Nick Amarr

For the organization’s work fighting crime and the heroin epidemic in Suffolk County, Crime Stoppers is one of Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said the organization is indispensable to the community.

“Crime Stoppers is a valuable asset and has created a great partnership with our police department to reduce crime in Suffolk County,” she said in an email. “They work diligently to coordinate information from the public and the media to solve crime and make arrests. I am proud to support Crime Stoppers and appreciate the dedication of the police officers and volunteers who keep our communities safe.”

The organization is staffed by unpaid volunteers, most of whom are former law enforcement or veterans. President Nick Amarr, a Marine and Crime Stoppers volunteer for 14 years, said the organization’s real value is in providing residents with a safe way to help law enforcement protect their communities.

“It gives the public a voice and an understanding of how important law enforcement is in keeping our freedom and protecting our children,” Amarr said. “That’s very important to me and everyone on our board.”

Amarr also said Crime Stoppers’ employees would not be able to continue the work they have been doing without the support of Police Commissioner Tim Sini, First Deputy Commissioner John Barry and Police Chief Stuart Cameron. Amarr has worked with four administrations and said this one strategically embraces Crime Stoppers as a partner and has done more in less than 12 months than he has seen accomplished in the past 10 years.

Members at a Patchogue benefit concert present Crime Stoppers with a large check representing donations received. File photo from SCPD

“We have reinvested in our partnership with Suffolk Crime Stoppers,” Sini said. “It’s a great, great, great way we’re able to engage with the public and we’ve done a lot of good for the communities.”

The 8-month-old narcotics tip line alone had led to a 140 percent increase in the amount of search warrants issued by August; hundreds of drug dealers have been arrested; the police department has seized a substantial amount of money; and is on pace to confiscate more illegal firearms than ever before, according to Sini.

For Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue founder and president, Dori Scofield, whose son Daniel died in 2011 from a heroin overdose, the work Crime Stoppers is doing to combat the county’s heroin epidemic is invaluable.

“The only way we’re going to combat this epidemic is by working together in different forces and stopping the drugs in Suffolk County and helping our youth that are already addicted and educating children and parents,” Scofield said. “This epidemic takes a village to combat and our police and the Crime Stoppers are an important part of that village.”

Crime Stoppers is funded completely by donations, which it uses exclusively for rewards for tips leading to an arrest. In July, the organization hosted a benefit concert at The Emporium in Patchogue, raising $58,000 in one night. Amarr said it will host another fundraiser at the same venue next year.

Mike DelGuidice at a concert fundraiser. File photo from Rebecca Anzel

Teri Kroll, chairperson of People United to Stop Heroin, part of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, spoke at the event in support of Crime Stoppers five months ago. Since then, she said she has heard that parents across Suffolk County call in information they hear from their children about drug dealers and unsavory activities in their communities.

“They’ve made a huge difference,” Kroll said. “The police department can’t fight all crime without any help and the Crime Stoppers being a liaison between the public and them is only a plus.”

Tracey Farrell, formerly Budd, a Rocky Point mother who lost her son Kevin to a heroin overdose in 2012, agrees the service Crime Stoppers provides is life saving to many kids.

“In the few months that it [NARC line] has been out, it has made a huge difference,” she said. “It’s nice that people see when they make a phone call, something is happening. I can’t say enough about how great this is.”

Farrell also said she thinks residents are less interested in the cash reward that comes after a reporting.

“I think they’re happy they have some place to report things going on in their own neighborhood,” she said. “[And Crime Stoppers] needs to keep getting information out there wherever they can.”

Superstar Beverage was closed following multiple violations and illegal activity. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Superstar Beverage building on Route 112 in Coram has been condemned as a result of illegal activity and safety issues.

Following an investigation, the alcohol distributor, a source of many complaints of drug and alcohol related activities, was cited with numerous State Liquor Authority violations, including sale to minors as well as licensing violations. The Town of Brookhaven building inspector and fire marshals condemned the location for fire code violations and for no Certificate of Compliance and no Certificate of Occupancy.

“You had prostitution here, drug dealing, the sale of alcohol to underage individuals — all of that poses significant public safety risks and degrades our quality of life here,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “We’re not going to stand for that.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said that the site has been a nuisance to the community for years.

“I have been continuously working with local community leaders, the Suffolk County Police Department and the Town of Brookhaven to collaborate on public safety and revitalization efforts,” Anker said. “It is important that we do everything in our power to support the Coram community and its local businesses to ensure that it remains economically viable.”

A notice is taped to the door of Superstar Beverage siting the condemnation of the building. Photo by Kevin Redding
A notice is taped to the door of Superstar Beverage siting the condemnation of the building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Residents rushed to social media to voice their support for the shutdown.

“This is amazing,” Eric Malmed wrote on Facebook. “This area was being turned into such a dump because of that place, and the shopping center across the street was so unsafe. Thank you.”

Others are afraid it won’t get rid of the problem.

“Do you think closing it down will get rid of drugs and prostitution in the area?” Robert Mindlin of Selden asked. “You are sadly mistaken.”

Tom Hoffman of Yaphank echoed his sentiment.

“Getting rid of the beer store won’t get rid of the problem,” he said. “They will migrate somewhere else within the county. It’s happened before and it will happen again. I cannot take away from the exceptional work of our county’s finest. I just hope relocating the problem does not create a larger one via conglomeration.”

To help cut off the problems though, Anker and Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) formed the Coram Plaza Revitalization Task Force in the spring in response to quality of life concerns from Coram residents. The task force is made up of many community stakeholders including elected officials from the state, county and town, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Department of Social Services, local civic leaders, property managers and representatives from not-for-profit organizations. The task force has coordinated revitalization efforts including homeless outreach efforts, increased security at the shopping center and the condemnation of Superstar Beverage.

“I would like to thank Commissioner Sini and the Town of Brookhaven on their collaboration, which they have brought to a higher level than we have seen before,” Calarco said. “They recognize that when we all work together, we can produce real effective change for our communities.”

He said local business owners in the Coram Plaza shopping center have said they’ve seen a marked improvement in security and the ability of their costumers to feel comfortable shopping in their stores, especially since the beverage center shut down.

Sini said he intends to keep it that way.

“Town, police and county officials are going to stand with the community, work together, and solve our public safety problems,” he said.

Two German shepherds are joining the force.

15-month-old Dallas V and 19-month-old Maverick, who were bred in Europe, have been training with the Suffolk County Police Department for one month and are close to graduation.

The two new patrol dogs are expected to complete training in November, which covers criminal apprehension, evidence recovery, obedience and tracking. These new additions to the team were announced recently at a press conference held at the Suffolk County Police Department Headquarters in Yaphank.

Benefit concert rakes in $55,000 for Suffolk County Crimestoppers

By Rebecca Anzel

The first thing Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron does when he gets to work each morning is check the communications section log, which tracks all significant events from the night before. More often than he would like, he reads that at least one young adult died from drug-related causes. And almost every time he is in a police car, he hears a call about an overdose on the radio.

“It is unprecedented — the opioid crisis affects everybody,” Cameron said over the sound of “Walking in Memphis” playing in the background. “We absolutely have to do something about it.”

The Emporium in Patchogue was filled with almost 600 people Thursday night, all there to listen to Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin cover bands, who were there to raise money for SCPD’s Crime Stopper’s four-month-old narcotics tip phone line, 631-852-NARC, which has already received nearly 900 tips — so much that the SCPD added detectives to investigate leads.

Teri Kroll lost her son Timothy to a heroin overdose in 2006. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
Teri Kroll lost her son Timothy to a heroin overdose in 2006. Photo from Teri Kroll

The original Suffolk County Crime Stoppers tip line generated a lot of helpful leads, Cameron said, but residents did not realize they could use the number to call in narcotics-related ones. Now, narcotic search warrants are up 100 percent this year, he said, and the amount of reward money given to those who called in tips leading to an arrest was higher than it had been in the past 20 years.

The benefit concert raised $55,000 in one night, all of which funds rewards. Donations are the sole way rewards are funded.

Michael DelGuidice, a Miller Place resident and front-man of Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot, said that the night’s concert was the right way to start fighting the county’s heroin epidemic, but stressed that it needs to be just the beginning of more action.

“As parents and fellow Long Islanders, we need to do something,” he said. “It’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to take a lot of collaboration, but we need to think of future fundraising efforts too.”

Teri Kroll’s son Timothy died at age 23 from a heroin overdose on Aug. 29, 2009. He became addicted to oxycodone after a doctor prescribed it to help alleviate the pain from his migraines. When his parents found out, they took the drugs from him and began the process of helping him recover, but they did not know he had turned to heroin.

The doctor, Seji Francis, was sentenced to six months in prison and deported after Timothy reported him to police. But during the process of helping her son and the detectives, his mother said there were no resources for her to turn to for help; no other mothers to call. There was a stigma around heroin addiction that there does not seem to be now.

“This event allows us to let our guard down, relax and know we’re doing a good thing at the same time.”–Teri Kroll

“The whole thing was hard on my family, but my son suffered the worst. Speaking out about this is my mom job for Timothy,” said Kroll, who is now the PUSH Coordinator for the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “This event allows us to let our guard down, relax and know we’re doing a good thing at the same time.”

She added that if Timothy was at the event, he would be smiling and dancing with whoever was around him.

“The room was packed – and Michael DelGuidice gets it, and is willing to speak out on behalf of the disease of addiction and put his time an energy in the fight against what drives this epidemic – the drug dealers,” Kroll said. “The Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers have made it easy to report the dealers – proving zero tolerance in Suffolk County. We are attacking this epidemic from all sides, just what Timothy would have liked to see.”

Louis Iacona, president of Long Island Helps Recovery Initiation, said this event was a fun way to raise money and awareness about Suffolk County’s heroin problem. He struggled with the drug and found there were not a lot of resources available to help him recover.

“We need to smash this heroin epidemic to smithereens,” Iacona said.

Smithtown resident Nick Santoria, guitarist for Led Zeppelin cover band Zofolk, said the band was grateful to be invited to play at such an important event.

“We love to partake in such a great cause,” he said. “Crime Stoppers is doing such a great job and we wanted to help in any way we could.”

Residents can report tips or information regarding past crimes and drug dealing anonymously by calling 1-800-220-TIPS. Rewards of up to $5,000 will be issued.

File photo from Margo Arceri

Story last updated 4.11.2016, 1:30 p.m.

Police have identified the body found near a beach off Setauket Harbor on Monday morning, linking him back to an emergency crash-landing that happened nearby in February, Suffolk County cops said.

Gerson Salmon-Negron, 23, was last seen shortly after 11 p.m. on Feb. 20 when the Piper Archer four-seated airplane he was in went down in the waters of Setauket Harbor with three others on board. His body was finally found on Monday morning after a 911 call told dispatchers about a body spotted on the beach near Brewster Lane in Setauket around 9:10 a.m., the Suffolk County Police Department said.

The three other men, student pilot Austricio Ramirez, 25, Nelson Gomez, 36, and Wady Perez, 25, were rescued by nearby neighbors and officers soon after the crash. The small plane had taken off from Fitchburg, Mass., en route to Republic Airport in Farmingale, but went down near the vicinity of 108 Van Brunt Manor Road in Poquott. The incident spurred residents living on the Strongs Neck side of the water to jump into action as soon as they noticed emergency vehicles making their way into the small North Shore community.

Related: Small plane crash-lands in Setauket Harbor

As the incident unfolded, residents living along the shoreline started offering up their personal kayaks for rescuers to use to lift the survivors out to safety.

“Where this occurred, there are only a few homes, but instantly, the neighbors pulled together,” resident Margo Arceri said in a previous interview after the crash occurred. “They say, ‘it takes a village,’ and these neighbors showed a real sense of community. We all pulled together immediately. I just wish it had a happier ending.”

In a report released in March, the National Transportation Safety Board said that aircraft reported low amounts of fuel and had been operated for about five hours since its tank was last filled. The report said the plane’s engine “sputtered” as it approached the Port Jefferson area, spurring the flight instructor to turn on the electric fuel pump and instructing his student pilot to switch the fuel selector to the plane’s left fuel tank as it flew at around 2,000 feet. The sputtering stopped, but started up again about three minutes later, the NTSB said, and then lost power.

That was when the pilot instructor took control of the plane and tried heading to the shoreline, where he believed the plane could safely land, the NTSB report said. But the pilot was unable to see the shoreline due to the darkness and could only guess where the shoreline began by the lights inside of nearby houses, the report said.

He held the plane off of the water for as long as he could before touching down and instructing everyone to grab a life vest and exit the plane, the NTSB said. Neither the student pilot nor the passengers, however, were wearing life vests when they exited the plane, the report said. Emergency personnel were on the scene within minutes and rescued three of the four men.

The airplane floated in the water for about five minutes before sinking nose-first to the bottom of the harbor, the NTSB said.

Divers with the Suffolk County Police Department pursue the aircraft as the missing person search continues. Photo from Margo Arceri
Divers with the Suffolk County Police Department search for Gerson Salmon-Negron’s body shortly after the plane crash-landed. File photo from Margo Arceri

Sheldon Leftenant, the man who allegedly shot police officer Mark Collins, is escorted out of the 3rd Precinct on his way to arraignment in March. File photo by Barbara Donlon

The Huntington Station man convicted of attempted murder of a police officer was sentenced in Riverhead on Monday morning to 55 years to life in prison, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said.

A jury convicted Sheldon Leftenant, 23, of attempted aggravated murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest on Jan. 26. On Monday, a judge sentenced him to 40 years to life on the attempted murder charge and 15 years to life on the weapons charge.

Spota said he was pleased with the sentence for Leftenant, who authorities have said is a member of the “Tip Top Boyz” street gang.

Police officer Mark Collins speaks after the sentencing of the Huntington Station man who shot him twice. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Police officer Mark Collins speaks after the sentencing of the Huntington Station man who shot him twice. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“I think the judge said it best, that this is a man who deserves absolutely no mercy,” he said. “He has no regard for human life. He certainly, on the evening of this occurrence, had no regard for the life of police officer [Mark] Collins and he deserved the maximum. I hope and I trust that he spends every single day of the remainder of his life in jail because that is where he belongs.”

Related: Leftenant pleads not guilty to attempted murder of police officer

Just before midnight on March 12, 2015, Collins, a 13-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department, pulled over a speeding car in which Leftenant was a passenger near Mercer Court in Huntington Station. Collins, a plainclothes member of the 2nd Precinct gang unit, ordered Leftenant to exit the vehicle before the suspect started running, forcing the officer to chase him. Collins deployed his Taser twice on Leftenant, hitting him in the back. As the officer tried to handcuff the man, unaware of his suspect’s weapon, there was a struggle and Leftenant shot Collins twice — once in the neck and once in the hip.

Leftenant fled and was soon apprehended.

Collins survived the gunshot wounds. From the courthouse, he reacted to the Huntington Station man’s sentencing.

“I’m just happy to be here and be back to work and live a healthy life again,” Collins said.

He thanked everyone from his fellow officers to the staff at Stony Brook University Hospital for their help and support.

“I still have some lingering side effects but I am not going to let them hold me back. I have a whole different outlook on life, and a lot of things mean a lot more to me these days and I am happy to be here.”

Sheldon Leftenant's wife Angelica said her husband is innocent after the sentencing on Monday. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Sheldon Leftenant’s wife Angelica said her husband is innocent after the sentencing on Monday. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

He also said he was satisfied with Leftenant’s sentence.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the case highlights the importance of the county supporting their law enforcement officials.

“Suffolk County will not stand for violence against our law enforcers,” he said after the sentencing. “It is that simple.”

Leftenant’s wife Angelica said she believes her husband did not have a fair chance in the case, saying that despite the verdict, he is not guilty.

“Sheldon Leftenant is innocent and we will prove that in an appeal,” she said. “Sheldon will be walking home on an appeal. I laughed [when I heard he was sentenced to 55 years] because he’s coming home. My husband will be walking home next to me. [The] case is going to be dropped.”

Robert Biancavilla, the deputy homicide bureau chief within the DA’s office, disagreed.

“Mr. Leftenant could not have been given a more fair trial in this case,” he said. “Everyone basically bent over backward to ensure that all of his rights were guarded and that he received a fair trial. The evidence against Mr. Leftenant was overwhelming and he to this day refused to acknowledge that or take responsibility for it.”