Police & Fire

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, right, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Suffolk County Police Department suspended two officers for kicking Christopher Cruz, a 30-year-old homeless man who stole a car and injured two other officers, after he had been handcuffed.

Cruz had stolen a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Port Jefferson Station late on the evening of Feb. 23. During a 35-minute chase, Cruz rammed two police cars, injuring two officers who were eventually treated and released from the hospital.

Cruz, who has been charged with several crimes, including third-degree grand larceny, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest, was kicked by officers who now face their own criminal investigation. At the same time, four other officers, including a supervisor, who didn’t stop the assault on a handcuffed suspect, are also on modified duty pending the investigation.

“The matter is now in the hands of [District Attorney Timothy Sini’s] office, and I can confirm that there is a criminal investigation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a press conference on Tuesday night.

The two officers have been suspended without pay.

“If we are to continue to build trust with all of our communities, we have to be transparent and we have to hold our officers to the highest standards,” SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart, said during the press conference.

Hart called the incident “disturbing” and said the department would continue its internal investigation.

The investigation of the officers’ behavior came to light after officials reviewed a recording from another responding officer’s body camera.

“While Cruz was standing up and handcuffed, a 6th Precinct police officer pushed the arrestee forward from behind and kicked the back of his leg,” Hart described. “The officer who initially pushed Cruz and one other officer kicked Cruz multiple times while he was on the ground.”

Hart called the inaction of other officers “unacceptable” and said the “number of officers who did not intervene is a direct violation of our rules and procedures.”

She called the actions against the officers “swift” and said the investigation would continue and could involve other police officers.

The police made a formal referral to Sini (D), who was a former police commissioner, and had pledged to clean up the county’s law enforcement agency amid a scandal engulfing the former DA.

Hart recognized that the public would express outrage at the video.

“People will be rightfully angry and disappointed and I can tell you that I am, too,” Hart said. “This type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Hart added that the incident should serve as a message to the rank and file that “we must be better. I expect our officers to act with respect and restraint. If you witness misconduct by a fellow officer, you are obligated to stop it.”

Hart assured the public that the matter is “being taken very seriously.”

Bellone, meanwhile, who also called the video “disturbing,” underscored the review the county was conducting of police policy.

These types of reviews are occurring throughout the country, particularly after several high-profile incidents of police actions caught on video. The death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of police officers now charged with his murder, triggered numerous protests throughout the country.

Bellone said the video of the Cruz arrest is a “stark example of why those [body cameras] are so vital and important. I can tell you that I will not move forward and present a police reform plan that does not include body cameras for the police department.”

 

 

File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death of a cemetery employee who was killed while working in a grave in Mount Sinai Thursday morning.

Rodwin Allicock was working at the bottom of a grave, which was more than 7 feet deep, at Washington Memorial Park, located at 855 Canal Road, when the grave collapsed at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 25.

His co-workers attempted to dig Allicock out, but were unsuccessful. Allicock, 42, of Coram, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Center.

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Emergency Service Section as well as Suffolk County Fire Rescue coordinators, representatives from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, and members of the Middle Island Fire Department, Hagerman Fire Department, Selden Fire Department and Setauket Fire Department responded to the scene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was notified and is investigating.

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Setauket firefighters saved a man who accidentally drove into a pond off of Hulse Road. Photo from Setauket Fire Department

By Donna Deedy

A 78-year-old man accidentally drove his four-door sedan straight into the icy waters of a pond off of Hulse Road during the Feb. 1 snowstorm. The driver was quickly rescued when Setauket Fire Department Chief Scott Gressin arrived at the scene at 11:39 a.m., just one minute after receiving a 911 call.

“The man had self-extricated himself from the vehicle,” Gressin said. “I found him on the hood of his car, which was submerged up to where the doors meet the windows.”

The driver was soaking wet, he said, but uninjured. After tossing the man a rope to tie around himself, the chief said the man was safely towed to the pond’s edge with the assistance of other Setauket firemen, who arrived at the scene with floatation devices and water rescue gear.

The accident occurred at Setauket Meadows, a 55-and-over community where the unidentified man lives. After confirming that there were no other passengers in the vehicle, emergency responders took the man to his nearby home, where he changed into dry clothing and refused further medical care.

The chief said that the man was appreciative, but somewhat embarrassed.

“It was a rapid, robust response,” Gressin said. “Fortunately, the department is equipped with specialty ice-and-water rescue apparatus and trained in cold water rescues.”

Setauket Fire Department responds to roughly 3,600 alarms each year. Winter water rescues are rare, Gressin said, but countywide first responders recurrently rescue passengers from sinking vehicles.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a five-vehicle crash that killed a man in Centereach Jan. 30.

Ant’Wan Pevy was driving a 2011 Kia sedan northbound on Nicolls Road when he suffered a medical event that caused him to lose control of the vehicle at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Kia struck a 2016 Nissan SUV being operated by Zachary Morrison that was westbound at the traffic light at the intersection of Middle Country Road and Nicolls Road. Pevy’s vehicle also struck a 2000 Jeep, a 2015 Audi, and a 2018 Mercedes, all at the intersection.

Morrison, 29, of Holbrook, was pronounced dead on the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Pevy was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation. Pevy, 25, of Ronkonkoma, was charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle and will be arraigned at a later date. There were no other injuries reported from the scene.

All five vehicles involved in the crash were impounded for safety checks. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Woman sough in Smithtown forgery. Photo from SCPD

Man sought in Smithtown forgery. Photo from SCPDSuffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two people who allegedly cashed a stolen check last year.

A man and woman allegedly cashed a stolen check utilizing an ATM Nov. 15. The check had been stolen out of a residential mailbox in Smithtown in July. The name of the payee, victim’s signature and payment amount had been altered.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

SCPD crime scene vans outside Danford's Hotel and Marina in the village. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating a body that washed up near Danfords Hotel and Marina in Port Jefferson at approximately 3 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Detectives said a man in his 40s was discovered in the water. Sources say it was called in when spotted by Port Jefferson Ferry workers.

A police officer at the scene said it appears non-criminal at this time.

An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

 

 

Hundreds of people gathered in Port Jefferson Station Tuesday to mourn the loss of Suffolk County Police Department Lt. Robert Van Zeyl, the county’s first active duty officer to die from COVID-19.

Van Zeyl lost his life Jan. 20 after testing positive for the virus Jan. 3. He was hospitalized a week later. 

Members from the law enforcement community joined Van Zeyl’s family to say goodbye with a full military-style precession featuring police motorcycles, pipes and drums, and an American flag arched by two fire trucks.

Uniformed officers who came out from as far as Manhattan saluted the decorated casket as it drove up to St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church on Terryville Road.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of an exceptional member of our law enforcement family, Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “Lieutenant Van Zeyl’s more-than three decades of exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to public service, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, he was on the frontlines every day helping residents in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Van Zeyl family during this difficult time.”

Van Zeyl joined the Suffolk County Police Department in February 1985 and served in the 5th Precinct in Patchogue upon graduation from the academy. In 1994, he was promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant in 2003. 

He served as the commanding officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Services Bureau before transferring to the 2nd Precinct in the Town of Huntington in 2015 where he worked until his death.

“Bob was a wonderful person, a dedicated member of our department, and a pleasure to know both personally and professionally,” Inspector William Scrima, 2nd Precinct commanding officer, said in a statement. “He was a person who genuinely enjoyed his work and was liked by people of all ranks who knew him and worked with him. He will be truly missed by this department and by the 2nd Precinct in particular.” 

During his more than three-decade career, Van Zeyl received more than a dozen recognitions for his contributions to the police department including two Cop of the Month honors and the Excellent Police Duty Award for amassing 12 or more self-initiated DWI arrests in a single year.

The Selden resident leaves behind two children, Hailey and Tyler, and his ex-wife Christine Zubrinic.

“Lieutenant Van Zeyl was really just a fighter the whole way,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said after the ceremony. “He was out in the frontlines battling for his communities, his whole career was dedicated to service and today we say goodbye to him. I know that his family will always be with us. For his beautiful daughter Hailey and son Tyler, this has such a difficult time for them, and we just really want them to know that we’re here for them.”

“They will always remember their dad, who was really a hero, and will always be remembered by this department,” the commissioner said.

Hart added that during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 87 SCPD officers tested positive for the virus. Van Zeyl’s death is the first.

He was 60 years old.

Robert Van Zeyl. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

UPDATE: The funeral service for Suffolk County Police Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl, who died Jan. 20 due to COVID-19, will be held  Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church, located at 300 Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station. Terryville Road will be closed between University Drive and Whitman Avenue from 11:15 a.m. to approximately 12:45 p.m. Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area due to increased traffic. Attendees are asked to park at the church.

A Suffolk County Police Department lieutenant is the first department member to lose the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a Jan. 20 press release from the SCPD, the department is mourning the loss of active duty member Robert Van Zeyl who died from COVID-19  Jan. 20.

The death is the first of an active duty sworn member of the SCPD due to the COVID-19 virus, and Van Zeyl will be honored with a line of duty funeral, arrangements of which are pending.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of an exceptional member of our law enforcement family, Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Lt. Van Zeyl’s more than three decades of exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to public service, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, he was on the frontlines every day helping residents in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Van Zeyl family during this difficult time.”

Van Zeyl, who was 60, tested positive for COVID-19 Jan. 3 and was hospitalized a week later.

“COVID-19 has impacted law enforcement agencies throughout the country and it is with deep sadness that the Suffolk County Police Department has lost its first member of service who contracted coronavirus earlier this month,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “Lt. Van Zeyl served Suffolk County residents with distinction for nearly 36 years and his legacy will continue with the members of this department. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”

According to the press release, Van Zeyl joined the SCPD in February 1985 and served in the 5th Precinct upon graduation from the academy. Van Zeyl was promoted to Sergeant in 1994 and then Lieutenant in 2003. He served as the Commanding Officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Services Bureau before transferring to the 2nd Precinct in 2015 where he worked until his death.

“It is truly heartbreaking to lose a member of our department, doubly so personally given the fact that I have known Bob for my entire career,” said Suffolk County Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron. “Thirty-six years ago, we were sworn in together and became Suffolk County Police officers; his entire adult life was dedicated to public safety. Bob’s passing exemplifies the multifaceted dangers that members of our department face every day to keep the residents of our county safe. Our department grieves his loss along with his family.”

During his more than three-decade career, Van Zeyl received more than a dozen recognitions for his contributions to the police department including two Cop of the Month honors and the Excellent Police Duty Award for amassing 12 or more self-initiated DWI arrests in a single year.

“Bob was a wonderful person, a dedicated member of our department, and a pleasure to know both personally and professionally,” said 2nd Precinct Commanding Officer Inspector William Scrima. “He was a person who genuinely enjoyed his work and was liked by people of all ranks who knew him and worked with him. He will be truly missed by this department and by the Second Precinct in particular.”

Van Zeyl is survived by his ex-wife Christine Zubrinic, his daughter Hailey and son Tyler, both 14.

“The Suffolk County Police Department has not only lost a great police officer, but we’ve lost a great boss, and more importantly, a great friend,” said Sergeant Jack Smithers, who worked with Van Zeyl in the 2nd Precinct. “He will be sorely missed by all.”

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File photo

Update: On Jan. 21, Suffolk County police identified the woman found dead in a Huntington apartment as Mareasa Westcott, 47. Her cause of death has been determined to be criminal in nature. The investigation is continuing.

Original release:

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death of a woman who was found deceased in her apartment yesterday in Huntington.

The landlord for the property located at 22 Elm St. called 911 Jan. 18 at 2:08 p.m. to request that police check on the welfare of a tenant who had not been seen in several days. When officers arrived at the scene they found an adult female dead in her apartment

The woman’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. An autopsy will be performed to determine cause of death.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to contact the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

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Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash during, where one driver was seriously injured and the other fled the scene in Port Jefferson Station.

On Sunday,  Jan. 17 at approximately 10:30 p.m., a woman driving a 2002 Ford Explorer was stopped in the westbound left turning lane of Route 347, at the intersection of Sara Circle, when she made a U-turn in the vehicle and collided with an eastbound 2012 Toyota Prius.

The driver of the Prius, Deogracias Pablo, 65, of New York City, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The woman driving the Explorer fled the scene on foot.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to contact the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.