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Fred Leute

Officer James Murdocco. Photo Julianne Mosher

The code officers were preparing to head home for the night.

After patrolling Port Jefferson village’s busy streets, the group was finishing their night shift — to end at 2 a.m. Saturday, June 19.

But four minutes before they were to get into their cars and drive home, shots were fired.

“We heard shots — you know, pop, pop, pop, And we were, like, that’s not fireworks … you could tell,” said code officer Wayne Bohm.

Code officer and detective James Murdocco, who has been with the village since 2013, headed to where the noises had come from. He was alone in his vehicle.

“I was flagged down,” he said. “I noticed the group — a gentleman came over yelling and screaming that somebody was shot.”

Murdocco parked and secured his car, quickly approaching the young victim. His partner, Brent Broere, tended to the second victim. 

Murdocco said that upon arriving, he saw a male on the floor, shot twice — severely in his leg. 

“The right leg was in pretty bad shape. He didn’t look good, and he lost a very good amount of blood,” he said. 

He noticed that someone attempted to put a tourniquet on his leg, but it wasn’t working. 

“I took it apart, redid it and made sure it was tight above the bullet wound,” he said. “At that point, I assessed him again. He was a little bit of in and out of consciousness — I believe because of either shock and the loss of blood.”

He, along with village chief of code, Fred Leute, decided then and there that time was of the essence and the man needed to get to the hospital right away. 

“It decided to put him in a patrol car and take him to Stony Brook Hospital,” Murdocco said. 

With Suffolk County police assisting by closing intersections, he said he drove as fast as he could along Route 25A, getting the bleeding victim in his back seat to safety. 

“It felt like forever,” he said. “It was almost like an eternity in that car … it was a really tough car ride.”

Murdocco added that if it wasn’t for the training he has received on the force, along with Leute’s advising, he might have not been able to help save the victim’s life. 

“The doctors pretty much said that if we hadn’t driven them, the likelihood is he wouldn’t have made it,” Leute said.

On the other side of the lot, Bohm began tending to the second victim, a young man shot in the abdomen with internal injuries. 

Officer Wayne Bohm. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“He was bleeding internally,” he said. “So, he was in kind of grave shape, but he was alert.”

While waiting for the ambulance, Bohm sat with the victim and helped him into the vehicle. 

“Time is of the essence, especially internal injuries,” he said. “He needs surgery, that’s the only way you’re going to be able to control the bleeding.”

Relatively new to the constable team, Bohm has 20 years of law enforcement experience with the New York City Police Department. A 20-plus volunteer with the local fire department and EMS, he also worked at the emergency rooms of bothMather and St. Charles hospitals for a decade.

“I like to help people,” he said. “That’s why the joined the fire department, police department, worked in the emergency rooms. I’ve always helped people. That’s my goal in life.”

Officer Broere helped tend to his victim and, once he was stable, he noticed the fleeing car leaving the parking lot. 

“I called in the description of the vehicle and the direction of where it was fleeing to,” he said. 

“I heard Suffolk County PD officers start pulling cars over off the radio from that description.”

Broere, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who joined after the September 11 attacks, said anything can crop up while on the job.

“You take your shift off knowing that anything can obviously, possibly happen,” he said. But I mean, it’s a surreal experience.”

But he, along with his team who tended to the two victims, said thinking about the horror isn’t an option when a job has to be done.

“You go through the motions, what you’ve been taught, and your muscle memory,” he said. “And you don’t really think about it until after it’s over.”

Leute added that both victims are now stable, while the alleged shooter, 20-year-old Port Jefferson Station resident Ethan Ladd, was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, a felony. He was arraigned at the First District Court in Central Islip on Monday, June 21, and released on $25,000 bail.

For a shift that was supposed to end early Saturday morning, the officers didn’t get home until a little past 6 a.m. 

“They are true heroes,” said trustee Kathianne Snaden. “Not a lot of people would run toward gunfire, and they did. They put their lives in danger every single day and are always there to help.”

Murdocco noted that he and his code officers do more than what makes the news. Over the course of his tenure, he has assisted in seven Narcan saves when overdoses happen in the village.

Always working closely alongside the SCPD, when a call comes in through 911 — and code officers knowing it’s in village boundaries — they rush to the scene to assist. 

Murdocco said just over three weeks ago another overdose happened on Main Street. He administered the Narcan, and luckily the young woman survived.

“And we’re within under a minute to get there,” he said. “It’s not like we’re waiting, looking with binoculars for somebody to park illegally and write them a ticket. We’re really responding to what we’re trained for.”

File photo from Kathianne Snaden

In light of the recent shooting that happened in Port Jefferson village early Saturday morning, local officials said an increase in police presence and an extension of code officers’ hours will begin immediately.

On June 19 at 1:56 a.m., shots were fired in the parking lot of the bar located at 109 Main St.

Two men, a 22-year-old and a 20-year-old, were hit, causing serious injuries.

According to Fred Leute, village chief of code enforcement, code officers were getting ready to end their shift at 2 a.m. when they heard the sound of gunshots.

Leute, along with three other officers, ran to the scene where one of the code enforcers used his belt to create a tourniquet for the man whose leg was severely injured by the bullet.

“We realized he was going downhill quickly,” Leute said.

Two of the officers tended to one victim, while the other two brought the man with the leg wound to the Stony Brook Trauma Center.

At the time of the shooting, the village’s Suffolk County Police Department Whiskey Unit was at Mather Hospital with an individual they transported there earlier for a medical condition.

Since the two Whiskey Unit officers were tending to another person, village officials have decided to have code enforcement extend their hours until 6 a.m. and will increase their police presence Down Port.

On Tuesday, June 22, trustee Kathianne Snaden and Mayor Margot Garant spoke with SCPD 6th Precinct Inspector Patrick Reilly to request more officers patrolling the village. They also spoke to Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and a representative from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office.

“After speaking with Legislator Hahn, Inspector Reilly and the governor’s office, and exploring all avenues of enforcement, we can confirm that we will have an increased Suffolk police presence in the village,” Snaden said.

Additionally, the village has extended code hours until 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays to keep an eye on the popular local bar scene post-COVID.

“We are taking a zero-tolerance stance on establishments serving alcohol to minors,” Snaden said.

Garant said during Monday’s board of trustees meeting that she was “deeply disturbed” by the incident.

“But we’re grateful that the two young men are still with us,” she said.

Garant added that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the village.

“We are working with all our state agency partners to bolster police presence, enforcement and proactive measures to prevent underage drinking at our establishments,” she told TBR News Media on Tuesday. “We are committed to doing what we can as a village and local authority.”

While the investigation is still ongoing, just 30 hours after the incident, 20-year-old Port Jefferson Station resident Ethan Ladd was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree, a felony.

He was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Monday, June 21 and released on $25,000 bail.

 

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An outside building at 49 Sheep Pasture Road is filled with debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

Two homes in Port Jefferson have caught the eye of both neighbors and village officials, and not for any positive reasons. 

The blighted homes on 49 Sheep Pasture Road and at 101 Nadia Court have received several complaints from residents, who said the properties are dangerous and need to
be remediated. 

The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Code enforcement officers confirmed at the May 20 village board meeting that they had been looking at these particular properties as part of the village’s zombie home task force. Acting chief of code enforcement Fred Leute Jr. said there were bottles littering the site, evidence of drug use and used needles. Human refuse was strewn in one section of the house. Officers displayed images of the inside of the home on Sheep Pasture Road during the board meeting.  

Leute added that people occupied the home in the middle of the day and had likely used the abandoned home as a drug den. 

The Sheep Pasture home, which is now boarded up, will soon be demolished. The board voted unanimously May 20 in favor of the proposition. 

Code enforcement said they had previously investigated the house on Nadia Court, where they saw the door had been left open. There was mold in the basement, and the pool was filled with stagnant water, something neighbors who attended the meeting said was of a larger concern with children and pets in the area.

Ray and Linda Hawkins, who live on Nadia Court, said the owner has been largely absent from the location.

“He hasn’t lived there for several years,” Ray said. “His car hasn’t been used there.”

Leute said upon entering the home the house “looked like someone just got up and left,” as things were left on the stove and plates left on the tables. He added the house did not seem to be built to a good standard, with water damage already causing major issues to the ceiling, though engineers hired by the village had not identified major structural damage that would necessitate demolition.

The owner of 101 Nadia Court is David Ferguson, a Stony Brook University professor of technology and society and applied mathematics and statistics. Ferguson has worked on several projects with the National Science Foundation regarding computer science, including developing computer science courses for liberal arts students and innovating on human-computer interfaces.

Through email, Ferguson said his bank, Teachers Federal Credit Union, has plans to take over control of the property, and that a contract is currently being developed to take over control.

The house at 101 Nadia Court. Photo by Kyle Barr

He also said the village has been in contact with him over making the “repairs.”

“It was my understanding that the village would make the repairs and add to my taxes,” he said over email.

A spokesperson for TFCU relayed that the credit union was in talks with Ferguson.

“We are aware of the issue and is in contact with the member on a resolution.”

At the May 20 meeting, the board voted to remove the conspicuous decking from the rear of the property on Nadia Court and to cover the pool so it would be inaccessible.

The zombie task force has identified 27 homes within the three-square-mile village that need remediation, and five have already been reclaimed. Comparatively, the Town of Brookhaven has a list of nearly 2,000 derelict homes.

One such home in the village that has already been demolished was on California Avenue, and a contractor has puchased the lot who Leute said plans for a new house at the site

“Now it’s going to be a nice family there, hopefully, who will be a good component to the community,” he said.

While neighbors have said these complaints have gone on for years, Mayor Margot Garant said the village has to be cautious when going after blighted property, as the system has been built to make sure municipalities could not simply take over people’s homes.

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

The idea of firefighters rescuing a kitten in distress is so overdone from movies to fictional novels it’s almost cliché, but in Port Jeff Village, life imitated art Aug. 31.

Strong Island Animal Rescue League Erica Kutzing and Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant with kitten Holmes. Photo from Strong Island’s Facebook page

Brennan Holmes, chief of Port Jefferson Fire Department, said he was driving near the intersection of Winston Drive and Ronald Court Friday night when a resident walking a dog flagged him down saying a kitten appeared to have fallen down a storm drain. Holmes got out of his car to take a look. The kitten was at the bottom of the drain about 12 feet down. The chief said firefighters were out doing driver training at that time, so he radioed them to come provide assistance. When they arrived, the firefighters lifted the drain’s enclosure and sent a member down a ladder to retrieve the meowing feline.

Fred Leute, acting chief of the village’s Code Enforcement, said he got a call from Mayor Margot Garant as the rescue was unfolding and hustled to the scene to offer his assistance. When he arrived, Holmes said he jokingly told Leute it was his responsibility to find the cat a home. Leute said he already had that taken care of — Garant offered to adopt the kitten. She named her new friend Holmes in honor of the fire chief.

“Not a typical day at all — I’ve been taking some ribbing at the firehouse about it,” the fire chief said. “It’s kind of cool — it shows the village and fire department are close and work together.”

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

Holmes, the cat, spent a night at the mayor’s home, where its road to recovery began. Unfortunately, the next day it was determined Holmes required additional medical attention as her fur was riddled with quite a few ticks. These health concerns precipitated a transfer of residence to Strong Island Animal Rescue League for the time being. The organization posted a video on its Facebook page updating the public on Holmes’ recovery a few days later, indicating she was doing much better.

“This was a lot of fun actually,” Leute said.

He said once Holmes was out of the drain he grabbed a box from his patrol car, added some holes and placed her on the floor of the car on the passenger side as the responders wrapped up their job. After a little while, someone alerted the code enforcement officer that Holmes was walking around on the car’s dashboard.

“We got an escape artist,” he said.

Leute said he stopped at the grocery store on his way to Garant’s house to grab some water and food for Holmes — a salmon pate.

Chief Holmes commended the firefighters who responded to his call and came to help out, saying they did a great job.

“That was pretty cool,” he said. “We’re always happy to help out in any way that we can.”