Police & Fire

Residents prepare July Fourth at-home firework shows in Port Jefferson Station in 2018. Photo by Kyle Barr

A man in Port Jefferson Station was injured just after 10 p.m. last night when he attempted to light a firework that explored and injured one of his eyes.

Carlos Diaz, 29, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life threatening injuries.

Additionally, a 29-year old man in Central Islip was severely wounded in the hand from an exploding firework. The man was at home on Tamarack Street when the injury occurred around 9:10 p.m. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

“Every year, we do these reminders and talk about the dangers of fireworks,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in his daily media call. He shared his hopes that both people injured by fireworks will recover.

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron said the county did have a higher incidence of fireworks-related calls, due to the limitations on large crowds at the usual fireworks shows.

While the number rose, he said the increase in Nassau County was “much higher.”

Earlier in the day, at 5:30 p.m., Second Precinct officers responded to a fire at the Rodeway Inn in Huntington Station. Canine officers located Raymond Pond, 50, whom they are holding overnight and charging with Arson in the second degree. Pond, who is a resident of the Inn, also has two outstanding warrants. While people were at the Inn when it caught fire, the police reported no injuries.

Viral Numbers

For the fifth time in the last seven days, Suffolk County reported no deaths from complications related to COVID-19. This lower mortality rate puts the county in a good position to reach Phase 4 of its reopening plan this Wednesday.

“We are moving into the new week in very good shape,” Bellone said. The low mortality rate is a “credit to everyone who has done amazing work in this county,” including by the public who he said has, mostly, abided by rules regarding social distancing and face coverings.

The number of new positive tests was 57, which brings the total number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus to 41,642.

An additional 19,960 people have tested positive for the antibody.

Hospitalizations declined by four to 66. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 19.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 67 percent, while the percent of ICU beds in use was 60 percent.

In the last day, 10 people were discharged from county hospitals.

Risco Mention-Lewis, left, was named deputy comissioner in 2012. She said she sees today’s protests as a genuine moment for legitimate reform. File photo

Risco Mention-Lewis, who has been a Deputy Police Commissioner since 2012, talked with TBR News Media about the recent protests on Long Island and about the relationship between the police and communities of color. The deputy commissioner supported the Constitutionally protected right to protest. Mention-Lewis was an assistant district attorney in Nassau County and has served as the first African American Deputy Police Commissioner in Suffolk County. In a wide-ranging interview, which is edited for space, Mention-Lewis offered her candid assessment of the civil unrest and the questions about police triggered by the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the end of May.

TBR: Have you spent time at the protests?

Mention-Lewis: I have not spent a lot of time at the protests. If I can’t [be there], I know somebody who knows somebody. It’s six degrees of separation. I run a support group for previously incarcerated [called Council of Thought and Action, or COTA]. A lot of the guys in that population are marching. Some of them are in the heads of the group, next to the person leading. I can reach out and see if I can have a dialog.

TBR: You did go to Mastic [on June 1]. What happened there?

Mention-Lewis: The young people needed a little conversation and guidance. I was there for 4.5 hours. My knees were so crimped that I couldn’t get into my car.

TBR: What did you do in Mastic?

Mention-Lewis: When they started getting a little out of control, jumping on the Sunrise [Highway], I thought if I could get on the ground and have a conversation, I could help them rethink the way they protest. There’s nothing wrong with protesting. America wouldn’t be here [if we didn’t protest].

TBR: What is your role in these protests?

Mention-Lewis: I’m the Deputy Police Commissioner. The way I look at it, the time we’re in is the time I was born for. My whole career has brought me to be who I am in this moment in time. 

TBR: Can you offer some examples?

Mention-Lewis: All the things I’ve been doing my career are coming together. I’ve been talking about race my entire career. I’ve been talking about disparate treatment in criminal justice. [I have supported] more resources for previously incarcerated people and people of color my entire career. If we want to drive down crime, you have less reentry to do if you do more intervention. We’re focused on the back end, when we could do much more on the front end.

“People in Hauppauge don’t need a Department of Labor as much as people Wyandanch. Why not put resources where they are needed, where people don’t have cars?”

— Risco Mention-Lewis

TBR: What are some of the solutions on the front end?

Mention-Lewis: Police spend a lot of time in minority communities. They are learning to spend time in the community versus as an outsider. They are learning about the youth centers, resource centers. They are talking to those guys on the corner. When I first got here, I hung out on the corner more than I did anything else. I know that was weird. What is the Deputy Police Commissioner doing on the corner? That’s where you get your connections and your influence, getting to know people.

TBR: What sorts of resources do people need?

Mention-Lewis: Part of our job is to make information accessible, to make resources accessible. That’s why I work with [County Executive Steve] Bellone and [Babylon Town Supervisor Rich] Schaffer to make sure the resource center has what is needed in a resource center. If I have to travel two to 2.5 hours on a bus, I’m not getting that resume done. Go online? What if I don’t have Internet. What if I only have a laptop or a cell phone? The resource center needs to have computers. Some communities need a Department of Labor in the neighborhood.

TBR: Like where?

Mention-Lewis: It’s simple, common sense. People in Hauppauge don’t need a Department of Labor as much as people Wyandanch. Why not put resources where they are needed, where people don’t have cars?

TBR: Are protestors talking about any of this?

Mention-Lewis: A lot of protests are talking about [how they want] better. Okay, have you done the research?

TBR: Have the police been effective in making community connections?

Mention-Lewis: We’ve done a really good job of getting into our communities. It’s why we didn’t have incidents [during the over 100 protests]. We had people on bikes talking with people before the marches started.

TBR: Are the protests creating change?

Mention-Lewis: Humans navigating life in white skin have the privilege of not thinking about race, until now. However, because they have not thought about it, they often may not know how to think about it. I’m a practical person. I want resources in the community and also help the Police Department Command understand the framing in the moment.

TBR: Are African American residents skeptical of government resources?

Mention-Lewis: One of the largest things that the government and policing need to understand: because of the history of America, Black people, even if sometimes you bring the resources, [think] it’s a suspect resource. There’s the Tuskegee experiment [in which Black men with syphilis didn’t receive treatment, even when penicillin became the standard of care in 1947. The study continued until the press reported it, in 1972].

TBR: What’s the impact of the Tuskegee Experiment?

Mention-Lewis: There’s always this undercurrent of mistrust, and rightfully so. The Tuskegee experiment went into the early 1970s. We’re talking about recent impacts on Black communities. White communities are not aware all the time. When that body was found in Huntington, people think about lynching. The police may not know, but there are six across the country that Black people are paying attention to. If you don’t know the cultural context, it’s difficult to be having the conversation.

TBR: How do you create the cultural context?

Mention-Lewis: If there are suicides or murders, it [doesn’t matter] in the sense of cultural context. People are concerned, even if the police say they are all suicides. Even if the police say they are all suicides, people of color say, ‘we know they don’t always tell us the truth, especially when we die.’

TBR: What can help develop that cultural context?

Mention-Lewis: We talk to leadership. We talk to families. We have a press conference with all of us and not just the police. When we start thinking about cultural context, how do we communicate taking into account that cultural context? It’s the same with recruitment. We have a low number of African Americans in the police department. We have to talk about the 1,000 pound invisible elephant in the room.

TBR: What’s your focus in the Police Department?

Mention-Lewis: Criminal justice and driving down violence in communities.

TBR: How do you think Suffolk County has done in the police department?

Mention-Lewis: We are ahead of the game. We’ve been working with the Department of Justice for many years. The DOJ is saying we have one of the best implicit bias training programs. They asked us to teach the Ferguson [Missouri Police Department, where a white police officer killed Michael Brown in 2014]. We have been doing community relations in a different way for years. We know how to work with leadership, whether that’s minority, Muslim, Black, Jewish. We know to go to leadership in churches and synagogues to get and receive information to be culturally competent.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Justice for many years. The DOJ is saying we have one of the best implicit bias training programs.”

— Risco Mention-Lewis

TBR: What are you doing to improve the process?

Mention-Lewis: We are doing traffic stop data to look at whether the stops are fair and just. We are doing a community survey to ask how we are doing. How do you know unless you ask? 

TBR: Who is looking at the traffic stop data?

Mention-Lewis: The Finn Institute.

TBR: What do you expect the Institute’s research on traffic stops will show?

Mention-Lewis: That we have work to do, but we’re willing to do it. Most data will always reveal you have work to do.

TBR: What is the methodology of the Finn study?

Mention-Lewis: With the data collection, the study will show when an officer stops a car, the race, date, time and location [of the traffic stop]. If we look at this person’s history, there might be an issue here that we can fine tune.

TBR: The results could show a range of responses, right?

Mention-Lewis: You give the rules, you test to see whether the rules are in place, then you retrain or you congratulate, depending on what’s going on.

TBR: Are you pleased that the SCPD is conducting this study?

Mention-Lewis: We are not perfect. What we have in place are systems to check the system. The community is checking us, too. The community is not just complaining to one another. They are making complaints to us.

TBR: Why isn’t the SCPD using body cameras?

Mention-Lewis: The biggest reason is the cost. It’s millions of dollars for the cameras plus the storage. It’s a great idea. We should have them, eventually. They are going to be across the United States.

TBR: What do you think of the justice system?

Mention-Lewis: We are moving in the right direction as a county. The courts should follow suit because we know with sentencing, statistically, nationally, there are issues. All this is, is an opportunity for every aspect of society to look in the mirror and say, ‘what can I do and what knowledge do I need to do my best effort?’

TBR: How do you think the police has responded to protests?

Mention-Lewis: We don’t say we are a community response unit. We are not looking to respond when something happens. That’s not our relationship with the community. We do community relations. We want to have a relationship year-round. When something happens, that’s not the first time you’re talking to us. Whatever community we’re in, we’re looking to be a part of the solution, working with the community to problem solve. We have people on bike patrol getting to know the protesters at every march.

TBR: Do you think people believe the police are protecting and serving them?

Mention-Lewis: There’s two cultures in policing: the warrior and the guardian. The warrior is what many departments have become. The guardian is what is being promoted as what we should be. Those are just words. How do our actions correspond with that? Black communities in particular have had more of a warrior treatment. How do we partner with the community to listen and deal with problems differently in those communities, effectively but differently?

TBR: Do the police serve the variety of communities effectively?

Mention-Lewis: You should be able to sit down with us and express what you feel we should have done differently. We should be willing to listen. It doesn’t mean you’re always going to walk away satisfied. We will try to figure out how to do it better.

TBR: Have protestors asking for anything unreasonable?

Mention-Lewis: The Mastic kids were asking for a youth center, or some place where they can have activities. That’s reasonable. They were asking for criminal justice reform. Okay, do your research so you know what that means. Be an educated protestor. I haven’t heard ‘defund the police.’ If someone says, ‘no racist police.’ We shouldn’t be offended by that. If they say, no f-ing police, that’s offensive. Some people want to yell in people’s faces unguarded. We have to deal with that as professionals. They are not yelling at us anyway. They are yelling at the officer on the Internet. We are carrying ourselves well through the process.

TBR: How is the police department doing in recruiting people from all communities?

Mention-Lewis: We worked hard with the community to recruit people of color. In the last recruitment class, 34 percent of the applicants identify as people of color. That hasn’t happened in the history of the department. Right now, there are 2 percent [African Americans] in the department. We’re not perfect, but we are doing the damn thing.

TBR: What are some of the easiest things to change?

Mention-Lewis: All departments should have implicit bias training. Across the country, I didn’t know this, we banned chokeholds 30 years ago and there’s still people doing it today. We need national standards for policing so that when people across the country have other rules, they don’t affect our reputation. We’re not perfect.

Attendees and marchers during the annual Port Jefferson Fourth of July parade in 2019. File photo by Kyle Barr

*Update* Officials confirmed Thursday, July 2 the Port Jefferson Village board was issuing a permit for a car parade this Saturday after the permit was deemed complete by Village Administrator Joe Palumbo. 

Original Story:

After the Port Jefferson Fire Department announced it was canceling this year’s Fourth of July parade due to the ongoing pandemic, a local conservative group announced it would host its own parade to mark the standout American holiday. However, this new community-run parade has made some waves within the village because of the event’s political undertones.

The Setauket Patriots, a local right-wing social media group, established the event they called Patriot Day Parade which was advertised on Facebook. They invited local fire departments, floats, classic cars or anyone else looking to participate. Because of concerns with distancing, Village of Port Jefferson officials requested the parade take place in vehicles. The Setauket Patriots also advertised for people to wear masks.

“All politics aside, this is not a political event, all people are invited,” said a representative of the Setauket Patriots who asked not to be named so as to not be attacked on social media. “We should come together for the birth of our nation.”

The parade is scheduled to meet up at 10 a.m. at Railroad Avenue then start marching at 11. The Facebook event said it has been in contact with Suffolk County Police who will escort the parade and close all streets along the route, though police did not respond to requests for confirmation. The route will take it down Main Street, take a left on West Broadway and stop in front of Village Hall where it will disburse, according to Village Administrator Joe Palumbo.

The parade has at least partially been in response to a recent protest march held in Port Jefferson. The Setauket Patriots description of their parade on Facebook incorrectly states that the Village of Port Jefferson canceled the regular July 4 parade, as that event is instead handled annually by the fire department. The post points to the recent Black Lives Matter march held in Port Jefferson June 18, which village officials granted a permit for, as why a 4th of July parade should be hosted as well. That June protest was created by students at Stony Brook University, who submitted the permit application which was unanimously approved by the village board at its June 15 meeting.

The Setauket Patriots’ post said that march shut down Main Street for four hours, but a TBR News Media reporter who was on the scene said it only lasted for two, and after holding speeches at Village Hall the crowd quickly disbursed.

The Setauket Patriots also wrote that despite comments from detractors that the parade would be a rally for President Donald Trump (R), the march “is a July 4th Parade PERIOD.”

“It’s not a Trump rally, but anyone who attends is free to wave whatever flag they want because that’s what this country  is built on,” the post continued.

As of Tuesday, June 30, village officials said they have worked through the application with a Setauket Patriots representative. The group paid the application and safety fees attached to the permit application, which has been sent for review. Because the next official village meeting is scheduled for July 6, Palumbo said the village trustees and mayor are to be polled on the application, but no decision has been made as of time of reporting. Because July 4 is a federal holiday, the decision on the application must be made before that date.

In mid-June, the Port Jefferson Fire Department announced it would not be hosting its annual parade, and in a letter, Todd Stumpf, Port Jefferson Fire Department chief, cited COVID-19 concerns as why it was being canceled.

In May and early June, the village considered hosting its annual fireworks show at a later date than July 4, but by June 15 had canceled the show it usually hosts at East Beach, with officials citing safety needs and an inability for people to socially distance considering the numbers of crowds who usually come down for the annual display.

This post was updated July 1 with a comment from a Setauket Patriots representative.

Police acquired several million dollars worth of drugs during a seizure of several Suffolk County residents. Photo from DA's office.

Suffolk County district attorney, Tim Sini (D), announced three people in Suffolk and two from New Jersey were indicted in an alleged multimillion dollar drug trafficking ring, with officials saying they seized over a million in cash, 19 kilograms of drugs and numerous guns during the takedown.

Police took millions of dollars in cash from three Suffolk County residents as part of a drug smuggling ring bust. Photo from DA’s office

Sini announced in a press release that James Sosa, 25, of Wading River, Anthony Leonardi, 46, of Coram, and Brian Sullivan, 24, of Lake Grove, and two other individuals from New Jersey allegedly helped purchase and ferry narcotics, including cocaine and heroin, from the West Coast to Long Island partially during the pandemic. The group used residential homes in Lake Grove, Wading River, Port Jefferson Station, Coram, Selden and Brentwood, the DA said.

Sini worked with Suffolk County Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

“The magnitude of this drug distribution ring is enormous; they were responsible for peddling millions of dollars in narcotics on an almost weekly basis,” Sini said in the release. “Not only did this organization continue their illicit operation during the coronavirus pandemic, they were also exploiting the limited availability of certain narcotics during the health crisis to generate even greater profits off their sales.”

The DA, Suffolk police and DEA launched the investigation in May 2019 investigating Sosa, Sullivan and their associates. The group allegedly used multiple methods to get the drugs to the East Coast, including cross-country trips in vehicles and airplanes and even through the mail. Police executed warrants June 27 at locations within the six hamlets, which the DA said resulted in seizing 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, about $1.5 million in cash, around 4,000 oxycodone pills, nine firearms, along with “numerous luxury vehicles” and equipment the DA said is used for packaging and selling drugs. The police had also seized an additional kilogram of cocaine earlier in the investigation. The cocaine had an estimated street value of $1.6 million and the heroin was worth about $520,000.

Dashawn Jones, 33, of Passaic, New Jersey, was charged with allegedly operating as a major trafficker and first-degree drug possession. Anthony Cyntje, 22, also of Passaic, was charged with first-degree drug possession and was described as being employed as a correction officer in New Jersey.

“This investigation exemplifies how drug traffickers have been impacted by the coronavirus; adapting smuggling methods, transportation routes and money laundering operations to maintain security and social distancing,” said Ray Donovan, New York DEA special agent in charge.

Sosa, who was charged with two counts as a major trafficker, among other counts, was arraigned June 28 with bail set from $7.5 million cash or bond. Sosa’s attorney, Glenn Obedin, a criminal defense lawyer in Central Islip, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sosa, Sullivan and Jones each face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top counts, Leonardi 12 1/2 to 25 years and Cyntje 8 1/3 to 25 years, Sini said.

Stock photo

For the first time since June 12, Suffolk County reported no deaths from COVID-19.

“I do hope and pray that it will not be another 17 days for me to be reporting zero deaths again,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily call with reporters. “Hopefully, this is the start of something we will continue to see.”

The total number of deaths from the virus in the county remained at 1,979.

The number of positive tests, meanwhile, was 33, bringing the total to 41,339. With 4,481 people receiving tests in the past day, the positive tests were among the lowest the county has had in weeks, at 0.7 percent.

The number of people who tested positive for the antibody who didn’t have a positive COVID-19 test was 19,074.

Hospitalizations continued to trend slightly lower. The number of people in the hospital overall fell by three to 72. The number of people in Intensive Care Units with COVID-19 also declined by three to 23.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 68 percent, down from 70 percent the day before. ICU bed occupancy was at 62 percent.

An additional 20 people were discharged from the hospital in the last day.

Separately, the county announced a plan, starting today, to walk back some protective measures put in place for Suffolk County Transit. In March, the county asked residents to use fast fare. Busses did not take cash, riders had to board from the back of the bus, and residents needed to leave the first few rows of the bus vacant to protect drivers.

Now that the county is in Phase 3, Suffolk County Transit has re-instituted front door boarding and will accept cash, even as it is encouraging riders to use the mobile app.

The county has provided protective barriers on all busses to keep the drivers safe from infection. Riders are still required to wear face coverings until further notice.

Finally, officers in the Third Precinct arrested Pablo Figuero, a convicted sex offender, last night at 10:20 pm. He was found in a parked car on Suffolk Avenue in Central Islip and was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree. He was taken for arraignment today and will be held in jail. Bellone said he is wanted out of New Mexico.
This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

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Port Jefferson Marina. File Photo

Police said they responded to an incident in Port Jefferson Harbor Sunday when 16 people were found sick with carbon monoxide poisoning on a boat docking at a Port Jeff marina.

Captain Ryan, a 35-foot private boat, was traveling from City Island in the Bronx to Port Jefferson when multiple people onboard became sick with carbon monoxide poisoning at around 2 p.m. June 28. Suffolk County Police said the boat was able to dock at Danford’s Marina with 16 out of 17 people on board sick. Marine Bureau and 6th Precinct police officers, members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Brookhaven Town Bay Constables and Fire Marshals responded to the dock and determined there was carbon monoxide inside the cabin of the boat, effecting 12 adults and four children ages 10 to 13.

The origin of the carbon monoxide is under investigation but has been ruled non-criminal, police said. After a safety inspection of the vessel, two tickets were issued for having expired safety flares and having less than the required number of life jackets aboard.

The patients were transported via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, St. Charles Hospital and Mather  Hospital for treatment.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn file photo

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) was pleased that the county legislature passed the Child Protective Transformation Act this week.

Created after the death of eight-year old Thomas Valva, who died in his father’s garage from hypothermia, the package of six bills creates new measures to strengthen the child protective system, the improve oversight and to institute safeguards to protect children.

“This will ensure that [Child Protective Services] never operates the same way again,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “What happened to Thomas Valva can never happen again.”

The transformation act, which passed in the legislature June 23, puts in place measures to make sure the CPS is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible, Bellone suggested.

Bellone thanked Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman and Deborah Thivierge, the Founder of the Elija School and the Elija farm for their help in this effort.

As for the viral figures, the numbers continue to remain within a safe range for the county.

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours was 50, bringing the total to 41,151. The percentage of people who tested positive for the coronavirus was 0.9 percent.

The number of people with the antibody to the virus stands at 18,513.

Hospitalizations declined by three to 85, while the number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by one to 25.

Hospital occupancy overall was at 69 percent, while the percent of occupied ICU beds was at 59 percent.

In the last day, 14 people have been discharged from hospitals in the county.

The number of deaths from complications related to COVID-19 increased by 2 to 1,974.

The county distributed 25,000 pieces of personal protective equipment in the last day.

Separately, the county is canceling the movies scheduled for the rest of this week because of a problem with the equipment that needs repair. The county hopes to have those movies back up and running by next week.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested two men on drugs and weapons charges following a disturbance at a convenience store in Commack last night.

Fourth Precinct police officers responded to a report of a disturbance at 7-Eleven, located at 362 Veterans Memorial Highway, June 23 at approximately 9:45 p.m. During the disturbance, Robert Sperduti allegedly displayed a handgun to the cashier. Upon police arrival, Sperduti allegedly attempted to flee but was apprehended a short time later.

Police officers also apprehended Robert Cano, who was allegedly found to be in possession of Xanax without a prescription. Following an investigation, it was determined that Cano sold the gun to Sperduti.

Sperduti, 22, of Huntington, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the 2nd and 3rd degree and menacing. Cano, 19, of Smithtown, was arrested and charged with criminal sale of a firearm and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Sperduti and Cano are scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip today.

Annemarie Lopez holds a police pin for her brother Christie Masone, an officer who died in the line of duty June 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

Crowds numbering in the several hundreds rallied at the corner of Route 112 and 347 in Port Jefferson Station June 22 calling for people to support police. It was a counterpoint to the over 100 protests all across Long Island calling for an end to police violence for the past several weeks.

People waved thin blue line flags and held signs supporting police reading “back the blue” and “respect and honor our law enforcement.”

The pro-police rally came three weeks after a protest against police violence in the same location, which some local progressive activists have called “resistance corner.” Some came with flags, signs or hats supporting President Donald Trump (R). Most people in the crowd at the June 22 rally were not wearing face masks, compared to other recent protests where the majority were wearing some kind of face covering.

Suffolk County Police officers stood at both sides of the protest line and entrance to the small park, and others milled about the crowd, with many people thanking them for their service. Most cars passing by honked in support, though there was a small number of counter protesters holding signs supporting Black Lives Matter on the other side of Route 347. Towards the start of the rally a woman pulled to the side of the road and got out of her car, cursing at the people standing on the sidewalk who responded with expletives of their own before a cop came by to tell her to get back in her car.

People at the rally said police have become disrespected since the start of the nationwide protests after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody. Though they admitted what the police did in that situation was wrong, when one officer leaned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until EMTs arrived, they said most cops want to do good.

Annemarie Lopez, of Port Jefferson, said she was at the rally in remembrance of her brother, Christie Masone along with his partner Norman Cerullo who were shot and killed in the line of duty in 1978.

“There are good cops and bad cops, but these are people putting their lives on the line,” Lopez said.

Others said the calls for police budgets to be cut will ultimately make the Island less safe.

“Cops are being treated unfairly — this will be detrimental to our safety, we don’t need cuts to police,” said Maria Leonette, a nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association had a large presence, sporting a trailer which handed out water to people during the hot June afternoon.

PBA President Noel DiGerolamo saw it as an incredible turnout that showed a “humbling support for the men and women of law enforcement. The silent majority isn’t silent anymore.”

At the height of the rally, the crowds gathered under the trees in the center of the park to hear people speak, including former chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Party John Jay LaValle, who was introduced as a spokesperson for Trump.

One of the two main organizers for the rally, Jonathan Stuart of Manorville, said “I could not let the broad stroke of social justice, virtue signaling and cancel culture paint all the police in the shot of the heinous death of George Floyd,” adding, “Is every person who puts on their bullet proof vest, turn their radio on, holster their pistol, shine their badge and kiss their family goodbye a murderer? No. Racist? No.”

The Suffolk County Police Department received a 911 call at approximately 7:20 a.m. June 22 regarding an adult man hanging in the woods in Peter A. Nelson Park on Oakwood Road in West Hills.

According to SCPD, the death is being preliminarily classified as a non-criminal suicide based on evidence at the scene and at the male’s residence which includes a letter to his family with his reasons for his actions.

An autopsy will be performed by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, and the family has requested that their identity, as well as the identity of the deceased, be withheld to protect their privacy.

“As a matter of policy, the Suffolk County Police Department does not normally comment on non-criminal death investigations,” a statement read. “The department investigates approximately 100 suicides annually. However, we are aware of unfortunate rumors circulating on social media and throughout the community regarding this investigation, and believe that it is in the public’s interest to issue this statement to allay any fears and quell rumors with facts.”

News of the man found hanging in Huntington spread through social media. There has been a rash of black men found hanging from trees in multiple states including California, Georgia, Oregon, Texas and New York just within the past few weeks. Police and other authorities have named all of those cases suicides, but members of the Black community have largely been skeptical, noting the long history of lynchings in America.

This post will be updated if more information becomes available.