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Suffolk County Police Department

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.

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.

April Brown, 31, of Bay Shore, was last seen Tuesday night in Port Jefferson. Photo from SCPD

Update: Suffolk County Police said Brown has been located unharmed as of 11 p.m. May 30.

The Suffolk County Police Department has issued a Silver Alert for a missing Bay Shore woman who may be suicidal.

April Brown, 31, was last seen walking on Belle Terre Road in Port Jefferson at approximately 10:30 p.m. May 29. Brown is described as a white female; 5 feet, 5 inches tall; 130 pounds with a fair complexion; blue eyes and blonde hair.

Anyone with information about Brown’s location is asked to contact 6th Squad detectives at 631-854-8652 or 911.

As a reminder, Silver Alert is a program implemented in Suffolk County that allows local law enforcement to share information with media outlets about individuals with special needs who have been reported missing.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Police have arrested a Huntington Station man for his alleged involvement in a March 31 shooting in Lindenhurst.

Hector Gonzalez, 27, of Huntington Station, an alleged Latin Kings gang member, was arrested May 15 and charged with allegedly murdering Herminio Torres, 25, of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Attorney information for Gonzalez was not immediately available.

An altercation started inside and continued outside at 105 Grados, located at 105 Sunrise Highway, at approximately 3:20 a.m. During the fight, two men were shot and three men were stabbed.

“The district attorney’s office remains committed to eradicating dangerous street gangs from our communities and cracking down on senseless gun violence,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “We will do everything in our power to bring this individual, a self-proclaimed Latin Kings gang member, to justice.”

Torres, was transported by the Lindenhurst Fire Department to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where he was pronounced dead. The second shooting victim, 26, self-transported to an area hospital and was subsequently transported to another hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. A 23-year-old man was stabbed and transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Two other men who were stabbed, ages 28 and 35, were transported to local hospitals where they were treated and released.

Anyone with information is asked to call Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Alex Petroski

Suffolk County is off to a safer start in 2018.

Graphic by TBR News Media

Violent crime, drug overdoses and fatal motor vehicle crashes are all trending in the right direction in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same time period last year, according to data announced April 4 by then Suffolk County Police Department Acting Commissioner Stuart Cameron. Geraldine Hart, the county’s first female police commissioner, took the helm and officially began her tenure, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

Homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined, dropped almost 19 percent when comparing the first three months of 2018 to the same period in 2017, according to the department. During the first quarter of 2017, 17 people were injured or killed by gunfire in Suffolk County. Nine people have been injured or killed by gunfire in 2018 so far, representing a 47 percent decrease.

Drug overdoses during that time period have also dropped 42 percent, according to SCPD, citing a 25 percent increase in narcotics-related search warrants so far in 2018. During those searches, detectives arrested 155 people and seized 43 guns, police said. In 2018, 871 grams of heroin have been seized in Suffolk County and 3,732 grams of cocaine, representing 189 percent and 724 percent increases respectively compared to January through March 2017.

Graphic by TBR News Media

“The statistics in the first quarter of 2018 show impressive results which are reflective of the hard work done by the men and women of this department,” Cameron said, adding that the encouraging statistics also came despite a 17 percent reduction in overtime costs.

Bellone was complimentary of the police department in light of the announcement of the statistics.

“Once again, the hard work of the men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department has led to the lowest levels of crime in recorded history,” he said in a statement. “Not only does this reaffirm that our crime-fighting strategies are working, we are doing this in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Graphic by TBR News Media

Despite the positive countywide signs related to violent crimes, the 6th Precinct is not yet enjoying such a trend in 2018. This year to date, 36 violent crimes have occurred, compared to 31 in 2017’s first quarter. Specifically, more aggravated assaults and robberies have been committed in 2018 than in 2017.

Cameron also touted a 25 percent first quarter decrease in fatal motor vehicle crashes and an 11 percent reduction in crashes resulting in injuries.

“These results reflect the department’s increased focus on traffic enforcement, the incorporation of an effective intelligence-driven model to traffic enforcement and the department’s new Alarm Management Program, which has freed up patrol time to allow for increased enforcement,” a press release from the department said.

File photo

Suffolk County police arrested a man for allegedly driving while intoxicated following a crash during which officers had to rescue him from a burning vehicle in Mount Sinai March 9.

Jose Nunez was driving a 1999 Honda CRV westbound on Route 25A at Hallock Avenue when he allegedly lost control of the vehicle, crossed over the median, went over a front lawn and into the 7-Eleven parking lot, located at 1 Route 25A, where the vehicle side-swiped a light pole and crashed into a parked tractor trailer at approximately 2 a.m., according to police. The Honda was stuck in full throttle, and the engine of the SUV caught fire near the fuel cells of the tractor trailer.

Sixth Precinct officers, Port Jefferson EMS members, Mount Sinai Fire Department and Terryville Fire Department responded and found the driver trapped and unconscious. Sergeant Richard Grice used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire near the engine, while officers Jamie Treadwell and Brian Cann used another fire extinguisher to put out the fire near the rear of the vehicle, police said. Officer Chris Weiner, with assistance from fire department members, kept the driver’s airway open until rescuers, including officer Anthony Buonagurio, officer Fred Crasa and officer Thomas Wassmer, were able to use the Jaws of Life tool to cut the vehicle and pull Nunez to safety.

Nunez, who regained consciousness during the rescue, was transported with serious injuries to Stony Brook University Hospital. There was one person in the tractor trailer who was not injured.

Nunez, 25, of Port Jefferson Station, was arrested and charged with allegedly driving while intoxicated. Sixth Squad detectives are continuing the investigation. Anyone with information about the crash can call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Attorney information for Nunez was not immediately available.

Andrew Sunyar. Photo from SCPD

A Coram man allegedly stole purses from women walking in shopping center parking lots on three separate occasions in February, according to Suffolk County police.

An investigation by 6th Squad detectives into three incidents during which a man in a vehicle would drive up to a female walking and steal her purse, led to the arrest of Andrew Sunyar. Sunyar was charged with three counts of fourth-degree grand larceny for his alleged actions surrounding the following incidents:

  • A purse was stolen from a female walking in the Stop & Shop parking lot, located at 385 Route 25A, Miller Place, Feb. 25 at 5:51 p.m.
  • A purse was stolen from a female walking in the Kohl’s parking lot, located at 5000 Route 347, Setauket, Feb. 24 at 11:36 a.m.
  • A purse was stolen from a female walking in the Walmart parking lot, located at 750 Route 25, Middle Island, Feb. 23 at 1:19 p.m.

Sunyar, 36, was also charged with a warrant for seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip March 7, police said.

Attorney information for Sunyar was not immediately available.

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron and county Executive Steve Bellone hold a press conference with new police commissioner nominee Geraldine Hart..Photo by Alex Petroski

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is looking to continue the year of firsts for law enforcement.

Bellone announced 21-year FBI veteran Geraldine Hart as his nomination to be the next police commissioner in Suffolk at a press conference Feb. 22. If confirmed by the county Legislature, Hart would be the first female police commissioner in Suffolk’s history.

“I am honored for the opportunity to serve the residents of Suffolk County and privileged to serve with the brave, hardworking men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department,” she said. “I am extremely optimistic about the future of the Suffolk County Police Department and what we can accomplish together.”

Hart was most recently the Senior Supervisory Resident Agent in charge of the FBI’s Long Island office, a position she held for four years. Hart received a bachelor of arts from St. Francis College in Brooklyn and juris doctor from St. John’s University School of Law in Queens.

“Geraldine possesses the integrity, competence and excellence that we are looking for in someone to lead the Suffolk County Police Department,” Bellone said.

In addition to her work combatting gang violence, Hart oversees complex investigations that include public corruption, white-collar crime, terrorism, counter-intelligence, child exploitation and cyber crimes. Hart is also actively engaged in liaison activities, such as providing active shooter training opportunities for county school superintendents, houses of worship, and the first FBI teen academies in Central Islip and Brentwood.

Her leadership abilities were recognized at the highest levels as the recipient of the 2015 Director’s High Impact Leadership Award, which is given to a select number of individuals in the bureau based on an anonymous survey among their peers who rank them for superior leadership abilities.

Hart began her career as an FBI special agent focused on transnational organized crime, where she helped lead and execute complex investigations and enforcement actions to dismantle violent organized crime enterprises, such as the Lucchese crime family. In 1999, Hart was assigned to the Lucchese organized crime squad, working on an investigation that led to the conviction of fugitive Frank Federico, who was responsible for the murders of garbage-industry haulers and informants Robert M. Kubecka, of Greenlawn, and Donald Barstow, of Stony Brook (United States v. Federico). That same year, Hart was awarded the Office of Inspector General’s Integrity Award.

As an FBI case agent, Hart, in 2005, worked closely with the SCPD to investigate two former NYPD detectives who secretly worked as mafia associates on behalf of the Lucchese crime family.  The investigation led to the indictments of Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who were ultimately convicted of committing murder and disclosing sensitive law enforcement information to mob bosses. The investigation also led to the discovery of a body in Brooklyn in connection with the criminal actions of these two individuals (United States v. Eppolito). For her performance on the case, Hart received the United States Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement, the highest award given out in the FBI.

In 2012, Hart was promoted to supervisory special agent to supervise a task force comprised of FBI special agents and NYPD detectives investigating the Genovese, Colombo and Bonanno crime families. In January 2014, these investigations resulted in the takedown of five organized crime members for murder, one tied to the Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy Airport, along with a body that was identified and dug up dating to the 1970s.

“As our next Police Commissioner, she will bring a fresh perspective and build on the progress that we have made over the last two years,” Bellone said.

Hart joins recently inaugurated Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. in a year of firsts for the county, as he became Long Island’s first African American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position earlier this year. Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said in a phone interview she was happy to hear of Hart’s nomination because of her integrity and experience, and also noted the significance of a woman holding the position for the first time.

This post was updated with new photos and to include videos Feb. 22.

Check back soon for more information on Hart’s nomination.

Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Just days after a shooting killed 17 at a high school in Florida, a threat was made via social media against Port Jefferson High School, according to an email sent to parents in the district by Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“Today our high school administration was made aware of an alleged threat via social media,” Casciano’s email said. The message went out just before midnight Feb. 15. “An investigation was conducted and all appropriate protocols were followed, including the involvement of law enforcement authorities. School will be open tomorrow as planned. Extra precautions will be put in place to reassure our students and staff that they are safe. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”

The district sent out an update to parents on the situation Friday afternoon and posted the message on its website.

“While I know that there are many questions that you may have, please understand that there is a limit to the amount of information we are permitted to share publicly about this type of situation,” Casciano said in the notice to parents. “Please know that the individual responsible for the threat has been identified and that our district is complying with the Suffolk County Police Department with their ongoing investigation into this matter. Our top priority is the safety and security of our students and staff and we are working diligently to ensure that all of our available resources are deployed as extra precautions.”

The superintendent’s message sought in part to dispel what her referred to as “a firestorm of rumors,” on social media.

“At no time today or yesterday were any of our campuses on lockdown/lockout, no evacuation occurred and no bomb threat was made against any of our school facilities,” he said. “The police presence on campus was intended to put our parents and students at ease and was a direct result on the before mentioned ongoing investigation.”

Casciano shared details about the district’s preparedness for an active shooter situation prior to the news about the threat.

“It is important for us to establish an environment for students and staff that is safe and secure physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said. “We conduct drills on a regular basis with our staff and students. We have security guards in place and question visitors to our schools. Our staff knows to report any suspicious people on or around our school property. Security cameras exist throughout our property. We are working collaboratively with the Suffolk County Police Department to identify areas for continued attention moving forward … Internally, we are working with students through a variety of programs and strategies to address their social-emotional health.”

The Suffolk County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. School will be closed next week for mid-winter recess.

This story was updated Feb. 16 to include Casciano’s Friday afternoon update.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

Reporting contributed by Kevin Redding.

 

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Employees from Port Jefferson Station and Terryville gas stations were arrested Jan. 31 for allegedly selling alcohol to minors, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

The arrests came as a result of New York State Liquor Authority inspections Jan. 31 in the Town of Brookhaven, police said. Due to numerous community complaints, 6th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing underage police agents, according to police. The police agents attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the town. Employees at Sunoco gas stations located at 669 Old Town Road in Terryville and and 200 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station allegedly sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent.

Paresh Patel, 25, and Tirath Ram, 61, both of Port Jefferson Station, were charged with ABC Law 65.1 – Sale to Persons Under 21. They were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip April 2, 2018.

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

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