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Police

Germani Williams, at left, marches at a protest in Huntington earlier this month. Photo from SCCC

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and police department representatives joined 60 Suffolk County Community College students and staff July 13 in a virtual conversation about policing in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. The forum was arranged as part of Suffolk’s The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding’s weekly forums for students.

Advocacy and Empowerment 101: Protest to Progress was born from weekly virtual gatherings held each Monday evening to empower students as well as provide an open forum to share their thoughts after the death of George Floyd while being detained by Minneapolis police and the subsequent national dialogue about police, discrimination and race. The students also discuss what they can do to effectively and actively bring about change.

Hart shared with students the department’s ongoing efforts to engage with and build community relationships. Hart was joined by Deputy Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis, Assistant to the Police Commissioner Felix Adeyeye and Inspector Milagros Soto.

Suffolk County Community College 2020 graduate Germani Williams, 28, from Holbrook said she urged the college to initiate the forum with police. 

“I wanted to know what Suffolk was going to do to make students feel safe during this time, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Williams said, adding that watching the news during the last several weeks has brought about a range of emotions from angry to sad and worried and a lot of anxiety. But, Williams said, speaking with the Suffolk County Police Commissioner was “potentially a once in a lifetime necessary conversation.”   

Williams said that while the conversation was a good beginning, more needs to be done.“

There was honesty,” she said. “But it was disheartening to go to a protest in Huntington the next day and witness police officers handing out tickets to protestors.”  

The former student added she will continue to be a voice for social justice and equal rights as she prepares to continue her studies at St. Joseph’s College in the fall.

“The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding and Suffolk County Community College are committed to providing opportunities for students to connect and openly discuss important issues impacting students’ lives,” said Jill Santiago, director of The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding. “The conversations the students are having with each other and with the police department are a critical first step if we expect to bring about substantial change in our communities. We expect these conversations to continue throughout the summer and into the fall.” 

The weekly forums open to all Suffolk County Community College students are sponsored by the College’s Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Black and African American Student Success Task Force.

The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding: Featuring the Holocaust Collection’s mission is to teach about historical events and promote issues of social justice and respect for human dignity through educational programming. The center’s vision is of a world in which each person can live in peaceful coexistence and pursue a life in freedom and dignity, and in which our citizens reflect upon their moral responsibilities. In addition to programs and events, the center offers tours of its Holocaust museum which houses the largest collection of Holocaust artifacts in the region.

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating several vehicle thefts from food delivery drivers in July.

Police said several incidents in July share similar details, where drivers exited their vehicles to deliver food, when the vehicles were stolen. In these incidents, no resident at the delivery address had placed a food order.

The incidents occurred at the following locations:

• A 2015 Toyota Camry was stolen on Old Town Road, Port Jefferson Station, July 7 at approximately 9 p.m.

• A 2015 Kia Seoul was stolen on Provost Avenue, North Bellport, July 7 at approximately 11:50 p.m.

• A 2007 Toyota Rav-4 was stolen on Mayflower Street, Setauket, July 9 at approximately 11:50 p.m.

• A 2004 Nissan Sentra was stolen on Hawks Nest Rd, Setauket, July 10 at approximately 10:45 p.m.

• A 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander was stolen on Eastwood Road, Miller Place, July 11 at approximately 7:10 p.m.

• A 2002 Volkswagen Passat was stolen on Arrowhead Lane, Setauket, July 15 at approximately 9:10 p.m.

• An attempt was made to steal a 2019 Hyundai on Patchogue Avenue, North Bellport, July 15 at approximately 4:35 p.m.

Detectives are asking all delivery drivers to take precautions and keep their vehicle keys with them at all times. Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding the thefts to call 6th Squad detectives at 631-854-8652 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

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.”

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Protesters marched through Port Jefferson June 18 to call for an end to police brutality and racism. Photo by David Luces

Well over 200 protesters walked through Main Street in Port Jefferson Village June 18, calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. It was just one of countless other protests going on nationwide since the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police three weeks ago.

Malachi Moloney, the speaker of the house for the Black Student Union at Stony Brook University, and who was at the head of facilitating and promoting the protest, said he was happy with the overall turnout.

“It means the world to me — we wanted people to leave here with a better understanding of the movement and hope we gave them examples of how to be a better ally. I think we did that,” he said.

The SBU student said the reason they chose Port Jeff as the site of the march was to give people perspective on how black communities feel on Long Island.

“Places like this, they think the status quo is serving the majority,” Moloney said. “This protest shows that we are not happy with the status quo. If you come together with a singular purpose in mind, there’s great power in that.”

Moloney said there is more work to be done.

“We are continuing the movement that has swept the nation. In the last two weeks we have had more progress from a civil rights standpoint since 1964,” he said. “That’s the repeal of 50a, the charging of Rayshad Brook’s murderers, we are still waiting on Breonna Taylor’s case.”

Jarvis Watson, Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs at Stony Brook University, marched with the protesters and lauded the young people who were in the demonstration.

“I want to thank these young people for being here, making sure and recognizing that Black Lives Matter,” he said. “They are not just our future, they are our now. We have to make establishments take the knee off those who are oppressed.”

Amara Ayler, from Huntington, spoke on her experiences being black on Long Island.

“It’s not OK for me to fear walking to school and I see a police car and I fear for my life for no reason because I have a backpack on. It’s not right. It’s not fair,” she said. The police are supposed to make us feel safe. The police have never made me feel safe ever in my life. They’re supposed to protect and serve.”

Ayler said every time she hears Breonna Tayler’s name, she hears her own name.

“Amara Ayler, Breonna Taylor, it sounds similar,” she said. “It could be me, I don’t want to be another name on a list, I don’t want to be a poster or t-shirt. It’s not OK.”

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Protesters stood on the side of Route 25A in Rocky Point June 12 to call for an end to police brutality and racism in general. Photo by Kyle Barr

Well over 100 peaceful protesters lined Route 25A in Rocky Point June 12, calling for an end to police brutality and more in the wake of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s killing in police custody almost three weeks ago.

A number of area locals and other Long Island residents crowded the sidewalk in front of the Kohl’s shopping center. Suffolk County Police were present, mainly asking protesters to keep off the road for safety reasons.

A diverse crowd of multiple races and ages shouted slogans such as “black lives matter,” and “I can’t breathe,” also the last words of Floyd and Eric Garner, who was killed during a police chokehold in New York City in 2014. Several passing cars honked their horns in support.

Jim Sweeney, a Selden resident, said the protests today have shown much more diversity than those in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, though so many of the problems remain the same as they were over half a century since.

“Everyone wants to say its one bad cop, its one bad cop, but there were four cops who killed George Floyd, there were supervisors who falsified the report, there was a medical examiner who tried to say it wasn’t murder — how did Floyd run into seven bad people in one instance?” Sweeney said. “If Floyd was white, he wouldn’t have even been handcuffed.”

Other protesters said they have been calling for an end to black oppression for many years.

“I’m a privileged white woman, who no matter what obstacles in my life I have been able to overcome them, but I can’t say the same for my black brothers and sisters, so I want to stand here in support of them,” said Mary Cappasso.

While many residents wrote on social media, they feared violence from the protests, all still remained peaceful.

“We’re protesting because black Americans deserve the same rights that everyone else already has and they’ve been oppressed too long, it’s time to speak up,” said Nikita Narsingh, of Mount Sinai. “If there’s any time it’s now,”

Sound Beach resident Emily Marciano came to the protest with her son, Dontae. She is white, while her son is black. She said it’s systemic racism as a whole that needs reform, not just the police.

“Whenever I see [police violence against minorities] it scares me to think … I’ve also been told by someone in the area ‘you don’t shoot deer, you do black people,” she said. “It scares me when my son goes out, wondering if he could come home or he could not come home, if someone sees him and doesn’t like the color of his skin.”

Several hundred people crowded on to the north side of Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook June 7 in one of a series of protests against racial injustice and police brutality from all around Long Island.

Across from Smith Haven Mall, several hundred protesters gathered both along the busy intersection and a small field just behind the police barricades. At one point, police stopped traffic for a time to allow protesters to march down the road. Cars honked horns in support, and some drove by holding their own signs in solidarity with those at the rally.

Protesters shouted lines such as “no justice, no peace.” People also laid on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs, much as Minneapolis man George Floyd was May 25 when the now-fired officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck. The crowd shouted while on the ground, “I can’t breathe,” some of the last wods Floyd spoke.

Suffolk County has had around 85 protests since the killing of Floyd more than a week ago, according to County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

All photos by Mike Reilly

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Suffolk County Police said they arrested a man in Port Jeff for allegedly committing a lewd act in front of people at a park in Port Jefferson.

Police said a pedestrian saw a man committing a lewd act at Harborfront Park, located at 101 East Broadway at around 10:15 a.m. Thursday, June 4 and called 911.

6th Precinct  officers said they arrested Frank Cappuccio was. Cappuccio 70, of 12 Hemlock Path, Port Jefferson was charged with Public Lewdness.

Village trustee Kathianne Snaden wrote on Facebook the man was “acting innapropriately” in a semi-dressed state while in his car.

Cappuccio was issued a eesk appearance ticket and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on June 24.

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As a part of a drive-in movie series, Smith Point County Beach will show the movie “Jaws” on June 20, 45 years after the Steven Spielberg-directed film terrified theater goers throughout a country a year removed from a gas crisis that appears tame by comparison to the confluence of today’s challenges.

“Hopefully that will be an experience people will enjoy with their families,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “Hopefully, they will enjoy it in a safe way.”

Suffolk County is approaching the end of its first full week in Phase One of an economic reopening, even as emotions run high in the county, the country and the world after the killing of George Floyd by a now-fired Minneapolis police officer who is now facing murder charges.

Group gatherings, even peaceful protests, themselves pose a health risk to attendees as researchers continue to try to develop a vaccine for a virus that threatens the health and lives of residents, particularly those with underlying medical conditions.

“We are always going to be concerned with people coming together in large gatherings, where they are not practicing social distancing,” Bellone said. “We want people to protest and express their First Amendment rights, but we want to do it safely.”

The county executive again thanked the community for peaceful expressions throughout the efforts to restart the economy and as protests in urban areas have, at times, led to violent confrontations with police and to rioting and looting.

Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department is taking the approach that the officers are a part of the community and are not just in place to restrict or police others.

“When people are out there protesting because they have a message they want to get across, ‘We are there to make sure they are safe,’” Bellone said.

While officials remain concerned about the possibility of larger gatherings leading to resurgence of the virus after hard-won gains during the deadly month of April, they are also willing to change their guidance if such gatherings don’t lead to an increase in infections or put a strain on the recovering health care system.

The county can look at these gatherings and see how they affect public health, Bellone said. “We can take something away from that,” he said.

Still, the county executive said he urges residents not to become too cavalier about following rules that have led to an improvement in the overall health of the county, albeit at the cost of a slowed economy and an increase in unemployment.

“After being cooped up for so long” with all the devastation from the effort to flatten the curve and save people’s lives, residents need to think about “how to prevent sliding back in any way,” Bellone urged. “If people continue to be smart and exercise caution, we can reopen our economy safely. We need the public to continue to be smart.”

Viral Figures

The number of new positive tests for COVID-19 was 62, bringing the total to 39,705. That doesn’t include the 14,138 people who have tested positive for the antibody.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus, a figure no one in the health care system over the course of the year is likely to ever take for granted, declined by 16 to 253.

The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit also declined seven to 67.

The percentage of hospital beds and ICU beds with COVID-19 patients, meanwhile, was at 62 and 63, respectively, which are well below the original target of 70 percent or lower.

Another 25 people were discharged from the hospital over the last day.

The number of people who died from complications related to COVID-19 climbed by five to 1,906.

The county distributed another 24,000 pieces of personal protective equipment over the last day. That total has reached over 5.7 million since the pandemic reached the shores of Long Island.

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Suffolk County Police said marine officers rescued three men who were stranded in the Long Island Sound Thursday evening.

A 911 caller reported to police that three men were fishing and became stranded in a 10-foot inflatable raft that was drifting out to sea approximately one mile north of Sound Beach at around 7:30 p.m May 14. The raft was taking on water.

Marine officers Greg Stroh and Mike Malone responded in Marine Delta and located the men in the raft within 15 minutes of the call. The boats occupants, Carlos Argeta 31, Elmer Argeta, 36, and Moisises Perez, 38, all of Patchogue, were taken aboard Marine Delta and transported along with their raft to a boat ramp in Mount Sinai.

The three men, all wearing life jackets, were not injured.

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Suffolk County Police said a man was killed in Coram Wednesday, May 13 after he was struck by a car.

Police said a Shoreham man was allegedly driving a 2010 Mercedes northbound on North Ocean Avenue, near Hawkins Road, when the vehicle struck William Moschetto, 33 of Mount Sinai, who walked into the roadway into the path of the vehicle at around 12:15 p.m.

Moschetto was taken via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.