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2nd Precinct


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.

Police commissioner Geraldine Hart. File photo

By Chris Cumella

Concerned members of the community discussed police reform and transparency at last month’s virtual Suffolk County Police Reform & Reinvention Task Force public listening session for the 2nd Precinct.

The conference was held as an ongoing series for public outreach and communication with the county community, as a direct way to connect with citizens based on police affairs – both current and future.

“We are looking at recruiting and supporting excellent personnel,” said Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter, as she listed various factors that the task force stands for,  including “recruiting a diverse workforce, training and continuing education, and supporting officer wellness and wellbeing.”

The conference included a section for residents to address questions and concerns to the board regarding the police force interacting with the community. Many of the statements discussed unnecessary police force against racial minority groups and those persons with intellectual disabilities.

During the conference, one individual identified as Speaker 8 said, “I’m appalled that this country has continued to discriminate. We are seeing what is going on with the police — we are not happy. The treatment is not equal, and it is not how this should work.”

The citizen input session proceded for over two hours, with 19 county residents addressing the various racial discrimination methods or inequity that they have personally witnessed from the SCPD in the last year.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart called the forum “powerful.” It reinforced the idea that policing is about identifying problems in the county and working to fix them in cooperation with those in Suffolk.

Speaking about how the police force approaches those with intellectual disabilities, Hart acknowledged that there had been “a failure in the system” for how those citizens are treated.

The task force has its own website at suffolkcountyny.gov/police-reform, including information on all members of the task force as well as statistics and resources of the police department. Baird-Streeter said that doing so was a means of ensuring that the public would have access to the information. The public listening sessions are now completed.

For his closing statement, Jon Kaiman, deputy county executive and task force co-facilitator, said that the task force and Suffolk county police were becoming more engaged because of residents’ input.

“The leadership of this department is committed to listening to all of you, as well as your stories and your suggestions that you’ve had — positive or negative,” Kaiman said.


James Garside's innovative signs helped save the like of a hiker in October 2017

Suffolk County police officer James Garside is honored by Huntington town officials March 20. Photo from Town of Huntington

Suffolk County police officer James Garside knows well that every second counts in an emergency.

That’s why he helped develop and implement innovate GPS-enabled trail markers at Cold Spring Harbor State Park. The trail markers played a critical role in saving the life of a heart attack victim last year.

“Officer Garside’s trail markers helped save that man’s life and improved public safety for all the park’s visitors and emergency responders,” Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said while presenting Garside with a proclamation at the March 20 town board meeting for his work .

Garside, an advanced medical technician, designed a system of trail markers to help emergency responders quickly locate injured hikers along the 1.14-mile long section of the greenbelt trail, which runs through the state park. It consists of 15 bright yellow arrow signs attached to trees, labeled 101 to 115, between Cold Spring Harbor High School and Cold Spring Harbor Library. The latitude and longitude of each sign has been publicly recorded.

On Oct. 15, 2017, a 47-year-old man suffered a heart heart attack approximately halfway along the trail, and made a critical call to 911 for help. Due to Garside’s trail markers, he was able to give responders his location within the 47-acre park.

“Critical minutes, even seconds were saved because of the trail markers,” the supervisor said.

A full map of the Cold Spring Harbor State Park trail and the location of the trail markers can be found at parks.ny.gov/parks/attachments/ColdSpringHarborTrailMap.pdf.

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File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Alex Petroski

A Commack woman thought she could get out of a traffic ticket by calling, of all people, the police.

Marie Toussaint mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested a woman who called 911 to falsely report seeing two men with guns in an effort to avoid receiving traffic summonses in Commack, according to police. This is the second time in a week that a person made a 911 call to report a false emergency, police said.

A 2nd Precinct police officer pulled over Marie Toussaint Oct. 23 at about 11:15 a.m. on Jericho Turnpike, near Larkfield Road, in Commack after he observed her driving a 2011 Toyota Highlander that did not have valid registration plates. When the officer returned to his vehicle to write Toussaint summonses, she called 911 and falsely reported two men with guns running down the street in the vicinity of the traffic stop. The fraudulent call elicited a large police response from 2nd and 4th Precincts officers. The officer that stopped Toussaint also responded to the call, releasing her without writing any summonses. After a thorough search of the area, the call was determined to be unfounded. Further investigation revealed that Toussaint made the call from her vehicle after being stopped by the 2nd Precinct police officer.

Toussaint, 40, of Commack, surrendered at the 2nd Precinct Oct. 31 at about 5 p.m. Second Precinct Crime Section officers arrested Toussaint and she was charged with third-degree falsely reporting an incident, and second-degree obstructing governmental administration. She will also receive four summonses for the original traffic infractions. She was released on bail and will be arraigned at First District Court Jan. 11, 2018.


File photo by Victoria Espinoza

A bicyclist was critically injured while riding in the center of the southbound lane of Route 110 in Huntington Station at about 8 p.m. Sept. 6, according to the Suffolk County Police Department. Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating the incident.

Naeem Iqbal was driving a 2007 Honda Accord west on Broadway and crossing Route 110 when he struck Miguel Vilorio Ponce, 31, of Huntington Station, who was riding a bicycle in the center of Route 110 at about 8 p.m.

Ponce was transported via Huntington Community First Aid Squad in critical condition to Huntington Hospital. Iqbal, 42, of Huntington, was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing.  Anyone with information regarding this crash is asked to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

File photo

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child after he stole a vehicle. He also fled police and was involved in a motor vehicle crash in Melville early morning Aug. 5

A 2nd Precinct officer observed a man in a 2001 Ford driving recklessly south on New York Avenue at East 15th Street in Huntington Station at 3:12 a.m. The vehicle had been reported stolen from Bay Shore at about 2:30 a.m. An officer attempted to pull over the vehicle and the driver, Justice Bennett, fled. Bennett lost control and the vehicle overturned and crashed at Old Country Road, west of Ponderosa Drive, at 3:16 a.m., police said.

Bennett, 19, of Bay Shore, was transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for treatment of serious injuries. A 13-year-old passenger and two 14-year-old passengers in the vehicle were all transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Second Squad detectives charged Bennett with criminal possession of stolen property, three counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated (Leandra’s Law), three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful fleeing of police. He is scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. No attorney information for Bennett was immediately available.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the drowning deaths of twins in Melville Wednesday morning, July 26.

Second Precinct officers responded to 10 Holly Court at approximately 8:40 a.m. after a woman called 911 to report she pulled her 3-year-old son, Nicholas Aurilia, from the home’s in-ground pool and he was not breathing. The mother began to perform CPR on Nicholas and reported his twin brother was missing. When police and rescue personnel arrived, they located the boy’s twin, Anthony, in the pool.

The boys were transported by Melville Volunteer Fire Department to Plainview Hospital where they were pronounced dead. An autopsy will be performed by the Nassau County Medical Examiner.

Personnel from the Town of Huntington were notified to determine compliance with town regulations regarding the pool.


File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested two women during a massage parlor raid conducted in Huntington Thursday, Feb. 16.

In response to numerous community complaints, Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers, Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives, Suffolk County Police Criminal Intelligence detectives, U.S. Homeland Security officers and Huntington Code Enforcement officers conducted an investigation into illegal activities at Lucky Seven Spa, located on West Jericho Turnpike.

Jianping Qiao, 33, and Jinjuan Gu, 50, both from Flushing were arrested at approximately 3 p.m. and charged with unauthorized practice of a profession, a Class E Felony under the New York State Education Law:

An investigation by Town of Huntington Code Enforcement officers revealed numerous occupancy and town code violations. The investigation is continuing. The women are scheduled to be arraigned Friday, Feb. 17 at First District Court in Central Islip. No attorney information was immediately available.


FIle photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested two women during a massage parlor raid conducted in Huntington Station Jan. 24.

In response to numerous community complaints, Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers, Suffolk County Police Criminal Intelligence Section detectives, Suffolk County Asset Forfeiture detectives, and Huntington Code Enforcement officers conducted an investigation into illegal activities at King Day Spa, located on 17 Semon Road in Huntington Station.

Xiao Feng Zhou, 50, and Xiao Hong Zhou, 47, both from Flushing, were arrested at 4:15 p.m. and charged with unauthorized practice of a profession, and a Class E felony under the NYS Education Law and Prostitution under the New York State Penal Law.

An investigation by Huntington Code Enforcement officers revealed numerous occupancy and town code violations. The investigation is continuing.

The women are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 24.


A view of one of the four cars involved in a car crash on Larkfield Road in East Northport. Photos by Steve Silverman.

Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives are investigating a multi-vehicle crash that killed a woman and seriously injured a man in East Northport Dec. 26.

Officers said Karla Kovach, 52, was driving a 2008 Kia northbound on Larkfield Road, near 5th Avenue, when her vehicle hit a 2008 Nissan that was slowing in traffic at 9:50 p.m. The Nissan, driven by Darin Costello, 37, hit the side of Mario’s Pizza, on Larkfield Road. After striking the Nissan, the Kia spun into the rear of a 2013 Mercedes, driven by Elias Francois, 46, which forced the Mercedes into the rear of a 2011 Cadillac, which was stopped on Larkfield Road.

A view of one of the four cars involved in a car crash on Larkfield Road in East Northport. Photos by Steve Silverman.

East Northport firefighters used heavy rescue extrication tools to remove the victims from two of the cars. East Northport Fire Department was on the scene with three trucks, three ambulances and fire police, under the command of Chief Wayne Kaifler Jr. and Assistant Chief Dan Heffernan and Dan Flanagan. The Greenlawn Fire Department and Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps assisted with two additional ambulances, while the Northport and Kings Park fire departments provided standby coverage at East Northport fire headquarters.

Kovach, of East Northport, was transported to Huntington Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Costello, of Northport, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore with serious injuries. François, of East Northport, and her two child passengers were transported to Huntington Hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the Cadillac, Anthony Nullet, 25, of East Northport, and his passenger were not injured. Both Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and East Northport Fire Department responded and transported the victims to hospitals.

The Kia was impounded for a safety inspection.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Second Squad detectives at 631-854-8252.