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Andrew McMorris Foundation

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, second from left, with the family of Andrew McMorris, a Boy Scout fatally killed by a drunk driver in 2018. Photo courtesy Toulon's office

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) recently joined roadway safety advocates to announce a summer campaign targeting drunk driving.

Beginning during the July 4 holiday weekend, Toulon’s Office will increase DWI patrols and checkpoints from Huntington to the East End, continuing these measures throughout the summer in an effort to keep Suffolk’s roadways safe. According to the Sheriff’s Office, its DWI team has already had record-high impaired driving arrests this year, with a nearly 40% increase in DWI/DUI arrests from 2022.

Coined “Operation H.E.A.T.,” the initiative aims to ramp up already heightened efforts to mitigate these increases.  

“The ‘heat’ is on this summer for drunk and drugged drivers in Suffolk County,” Toulon said during a press event Thursday, June 29. “Our deputy sheriffs will be out in full force patrolling the roadways with an eye out for impaired drivers. If you don’t drive sober, you will be pulled over.” 

Joining Toulon was the family of Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout who was fatally hit by a drunk driver in 2018 while hiking with his Scout troop. The driver in that crash was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

“The Andrew McMorris Foundation asks everyone this summer and always to please make a promise to never drink and drive,” said Alisa and John McMorris of the Andrew McMorris Foundation. “Call a cab, call a friend, save a life, start a trend. You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone’s life. Just take the keys.”

Paige Carbone, regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also attended the meeting. She offered her support for the department initiative, emphasizing the need for stricter enforcement.

“Summer is one of the deadliest times of the year on our highways,” she said. “MADD supports Operation H.E.A.T. and will join the efforts by providing staff and volunteers to participate in checkpoints across the county this summer.” 

The regional director added, “Our mission is to end drunk driving, and MADD encourages alternatives, such as designating a non-drinking driver, rideshares and using public transportation. That can prevent these crimes from happening.”

Toulon also offered these tips:

  • If you are hosting a party, designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation to ensure guests get home safely.
  • If you’ve been drinking and don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home, call a taxi or rideshare service or stay for the night. 
  • Take the keys from a friend if you think they are about to drive while impaired. 

For more information on the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, please visit www.suffolksheriff.com.

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Rocks placed in garden of the Shoreham rec center in honor of Andrew McMorris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On the two-year anniversary of that fateful day, Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho gave Thomas Murphy, 61 of Holbrook, the max sentence of eight and a third to 25 years Sept. 30 for hitting and killing a Wading River Boy Scout while driving drunk.

John and Alisa McMorris hold a photo of their son. Photo by Kyle Barr

The sentencing caps off month upon month of a tense courtroom back and forth, following with a sentencing that was first delayed due to the pandemic and then held back again after a lawyer for the defendant claimed there had been jury misconduct.

Andrew McMorris, of Wading River, was killed Sept. 30, 2018 after Murphy hit both him and several other young scouts of Shoreham Troop 161 while they were hiking along the road in Manorville, Suffolk County Police said. McMorris was only 12 years old.

Several other scouts suffered severe injuries that day as well. Thomas Lane, of Shoreham, suffered severe injuries while his brother, Denis Lane, and Kaden Lynch, of Calverton, both suffered injuries as well. 

“Today, justice was served,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “This was a difficult process, but today, justice was served. I want to thank the prosecutors in my Office who were so committed to achieving justice in this case as well as the Suffolk County Police Department for their partnership in this investigation and prosecution. Most of all, I want to thank the victims’ loved ones and the community for their support throughout this process.”

Murphy was convicted by a jury Dec. 18, 2019 of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter and several other counts including assault and reckless driving. 

Police have said that two years ago, shortly before 2 p.m., Murphy was leaving Swan Lake Golf Club to drive home after drinking alcohol since around 9 a.m. The DA said an investigation revealed that Murphy was approached by a friend in the parking lot who offered to drive Murphy home due to his intoxicated state, but he refused.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini. File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Murphy was driving southbound on David Terry Road when his white Mercedes SUV veered toward a group of 12 Boys Scouts and six Scout leaders from Troop 161 who were walking northbound on the shoulder of the roadway.

Police from the 7th precinct told prosecutors that Murphy allegedly had slurred speech and the scent of alcohol on his breath. Murphy refused a field sobriety test as well as a later blood test at the precinct. 

Detectives would shortly after receive a warrant for a blood test from Murphy who prosecutors said revealed had a blood alcohol content level of .13% approximately four hours after the crash occurred.

Since Andrew’s death, the McMorris family have become active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their foundation, named after their son, has also benefited high school students in Shoreham-Wading River with scholarships. 

“[The McMorris family] managed to turn their grief and their loss into something positive, becoming advocates in the community for safe driving and trying to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” Sini said.