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SCPD

***UPDATE***

 Julie Nicholson has been located, unharmed.

The Suffolk County Police Department has issued a Silver Alert for a missing Patchogue woman with Asperger Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome.

Julie Nicholson, 29, was last seen at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, located at 75 North Country Road in Port Jefferson., on May 8 at approximately 7:30 a.m. She was reported missing at approximately 12:40 p.m.

Nicholson is White, 5 feet 1 inches tall, 120 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a t-shirt with a photo of a rapper.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Nicholson’s location to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552 or call 911.

Silver Alert is a program implemented in Suffolk County that allows local law enforcement to share information with media outlets about individuals with special needs who have been reported missing.

Drug dealers are designing and manufacturing fentanyl-laced drugs to resemble name-brand prescriptions. Stock photo

The Town of Brookhaven Council District 1 Drug Prevention Coalition and the Center for Prevention and Outreach’s SB IMPACT Coalition will be hosting a drive-thru wellness and drug takeback day. 

Partnering with the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, on Saturday, April 24, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. people can visit the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber Train Car at the southeast corner of Route 112 and Route 347 (entrance on Rose Avenue).

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct will be there to collect expired and unused prescription drugs.

The Town of Brookhaven E-Waste Recycling will gather vaping products.

Visitors may turn in any expired, unused or unwanted pill/capsule medications, vaping devices and vaping cartridges. Liquids and needles cannot be accepted.

There will also be a food drive for local food pantries. 

Masks are required, as is social distancing

County Executive Steve Bellone, center, speaks at the April 20 press conference. Police Chief Stuart Cameron, left, and Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Geraldine Hart were also in attendance. Photo from Suffolk County

In response to the 50 mass shootings that have occurred throughout the country in the last month, the Suffolk County Police Department is enabling supermarkets and big box retailers to connect to a camera system set up to provide the police with video access to schools.

Using a resource called SHARE, which stands for Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry, businesses can plug their closed-circuit systems to the police department’s Real-Time Crime Center. The connection, which will have no cost for businesses, is designed to provide critical, up-to-the-minute information to police in the event of an active shooter.

“We know from previous active shooter events that seconds matter,” said SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart at a press conference on Tuesday announcing the initiative at the Suffolk County Police Department Headquarters in Yaphank. “Seconds can save lives.”

The ability to see inside a building would give the police intelligence that they could pass along to first responding officers, providing a description and updated location of a person or people who had weapons.

“One of the things that keeps me up as county executive is the idea that we could have one of these shootings here in our county in Long Island,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) at the press conference. The SCPD, which has been “at the forefront of efforts to address the possibility of mass shootings is, once again, announcing a continuation of these efforts.”

The collaboration between these stores and the police could go a step further, giving the police access to electronic controls that would allow them to open electronic doors remotely for emergency responders, helping them get to victims sooner and giving them a chance to maneuver around a perpetrator.

“We value partnerships with the community,” Hart said. “The goal is to keep people safe.”

Since 2016, the Suffolk County Police Department has done 420 active shooter presentations. On May 2, the SCPD will hold an active shooter drill at a King Kullen in Middle Island, which is the first time the police will conduct such an exercise in a supermarket.

The SCPD has also held 67 stop the bleed training classes for residents, which teaches people to treat wounds and practice applying tourniquets.

The SCPD will have the “ability to see inside those stores if, God forbid, an active shooter situation arises,” Bellone said.

In 2019, Bellone, Hart and Police Chief Stuart Cameron announced the SHARE program at West Babylon high school, which gave police the ability to tap into closed circuit TVs at area schools.

“This is one of the best things we can do to help save lives in an active shooter situation,” Bellone said. “We’re going to do everything we can on a local level to deal with the possibility of mass shootings.”

Bellone called the number of mass shootings in the country, which exceeds one per day, “insane,” and urged Congress to adopt “common-sense gun safety measures.” Rather than wait for a provision that might solve or prevent all the problems, Bellone urged Congress to take action immediately to reduce the risk of events that rob families and the community of loved ones amid senseless violence.

The police would only access cameras in the event of an emergency or a potentially dangerous situation.

Last month, the Village of Port Jefferson — which has had cameras hooked up to the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center for over two years — was able to help police find and arrest Joseph Garcia of Port Jefferson Station for the alleged shooting of David Bliss Jr. on Main Street. 

“We were proud to partner with the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center a few years ago to take advantage of this program that keeps our streets safe,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “It’s proven to create a quick response and help reduce crime in our village.”

Businesses and Suffolk County residents can gather more information at: SCPDShield.org.

Additional reporting by Julianne Mosher

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers have been highlighting several unsolved cases on the department’s social media pages during National Crime Victims’ Rights week from April 18 through April 24.

Crime Stoppers is offering fast-cash rewards for information leading to an arrest in each of the cases. The rewards will be issued within 72 hours of an arrest.

Crime Stoppers has been proven to be an effective crime solving program since its inception in Suffolk County in 1994. During that time, more than $665,000 has been rewarded to tipsters who reported information anonymously and close to 2,800 arrests have been made.  

“Our partnership with Crime Stoppers has been instrumental in solving cases during the last three decades,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “By highlighting these unsolved cases, we hope to bring justice to these victims and their families.” 

Cases being featured include: A homicide during which Alejandra Vargas-Diaz shot and killed Albert Luis Rodriguez-Lopez during an argument at Billiards DBM in Port Jefferson on July 22, 2018. Detectives believe Vargas-Diaz may have fled to the Dominican Republic; The fatal-hit-run of 17-year-old Jenna Lopez who was walking home from work on Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station on Aug. 24, 2019. Lopez was struck by a vehicle, causing her to fall, and she was subsequently struck by additional vehicles. The first driver failed to stop. Drivers of the additional vehicles stopped and called 911, however, Lopez died at the scene; The fatal hit-and-run of Ronald Destefano who was struck while walking to work on Route 347 in Stony Brook on Dec. 20, 2020. 

“We are asking the public to reach out anonymously with any information to aid in these unsolved cases,” said Crime Stoppers president Nick Amarr.

Anyone who wants to submit information on a crime can call 1-800-220-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by downloading the P3 tips mobile app or online at p3tips.com. 

New Suffolk County Police officers were sworn in this week at the academy in Brentwood. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown 

A total of 54 new recruits were sworn in by Suffolk County officials in Brentwood police academy, Monday, April 12.

  Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart were responsible for swearing in the second portion of the class, one that had the highest percentage of minorities in the history of the county.  

The first class, holding 50 recruits, was sworn in March 29. With a total of 104 recruits from all over Suffolk County, including eight women, 28% are minorities and 10 are fluent in Spanish. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

“Being a law enforcement officer is a crucial role in our society,” Bellone said. “So first let me say thank you for your willingness to stand up and serve your community and being willing to take on the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer.” 

 Almost half the recruiting class had prior law enforcement experience and one-third of the class are military veterans.  

Bellone expressed his anticipation for the recruits to begin their 30-day training.

Special recognition was given to the good Samaritans, a retired NYPD officer and a Marine, who did not hesitate to offer assistance to Officer Christopher Racioppo in his time of need after a traffic stop stabbing in Patchogue Saturday. 

“Officers responded immediately and relied on their training, the quality training that they received here in this academy to make the critical, split-second decisions that needed to be made that very well may have saved his life,” Hart said.  

Hart welcomed the new class in taking their next step into a life of service as they embark on their new careers in law enforcement.

Activists attend a rally for police reform in Hauppauge March 15. File photo by Julianne Mosher

By Harry To

Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) was the lone vote against the reform plan for the Suffolk County Police Department. The reform plan passed 16-1 in the county Legislature earlier this month.

“The passage of this plan today is truly a historic moment in Suffolk County, and I am grateful to all those who came to the table and everyone who took part in the reform process to tackle the toughest of challenges,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a press release.

In a statement, Gonzalez said that he voted “no” on the reform plan because independent oversight of police conduct was not included, leaving the plan “insufficient.”

“This reform plan is about our future; not only will it affect residents today, but it will also impact generations of residents long after us,” Gonzalez said. “The plan is insufficient and will not be effective unless there is serious discipline for wrongful actions. Clearly, there is a crisis of mistrust and for change to be successful — there must be accountability.”

Progressive groups across the country have advocated for police reform.

Indeed, many Long Island advocates share Gonzalez’s gripes with current reform plans. As a result, they drew up “The People’s Plan,” which includes civilian oversight for police misconduct and the creation of unarmed traffic enforcement.

“The plan that was released by Suffolk County in response to Governor Cuomo’s (D) executive order falls short of the transformative changes to the way we conceive of public safety that this moment in our community members are demanding,” said Jackie Burbridge, co-founder of the Long Island Black Alliance.

On the other side of the aisle, state Republicans attacked the reform bill for different reasons. Some cited the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes as a reason for opposing the reforms, such as state Sen. Alexis Weik (R-Sayville).

“One-party control in Albany has led to laws that have immediately released violent criminals, the repeal of 50-a, and an overall disdain for the men and women of law enforcement,” she said in a press release. “In light of the rising violence we see day in and day out on the news, particularly recent acts of violence against the Asian American community, we must shift course to a focus on restoring safety and accountability to the policies coming out of Albany.”

Still, the 1,000-page Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force Report received overwhelming bipartisan support from county legislators March 30.

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The crime scene outside Dunkin' Donuts in the village. Photo from Margot Garant

Suffolk County Police have made an arrest for the shooting death of a man in Port Jefferson on March 24.

Homicide Squad detectives charged Joseph Garcia, 19, of 11 Market St. in Port Jefferson Station, with Murder 2nd Degree.

Garcia was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and is scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip on March 28. The investigation is continuing.

On March 24, David Bliss Jr., of Shirley, was killed from a gunshot wound in front of 122 Main St. at approximately 3:35 p.m.

Bliss was transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested a man for animal cruelty in Selden.

On March 4, Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers received a complaint of possible animal cruelty, where a puppy was brought to an animal hospital with severe injuries.

Daniel Keelan brought his chocolate Labrador named Coco to the hospital on March 3, and told the staff Coco was struck by a vehicle. The hospital staff determined Coco’s injuries were not consistent with being struck by a vehicle and called law enforcement.

Investigation by 6th Precinct Crime Section officers revealed Keelan threw Coco against a wall, and punched and kicked the dog in front of his two children at his home at 40 Cedar Street on March 2 at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Coco suffered a fracture to his distal femur, fracture to mid shaft tibia, and multiple broken ribs. The femur and tibia injuries required emergency surgery, requiring placing pins and a metal plate to repair.

Sixth Precinct Crime Section officers executed a search warrant today and retrieved a four-month old silver Labrador Retriever named Lucky. Keelan was arrested tonight at approximately 5:30 p.m.

Lucky was brought to a local animal hospital to be examined. Coco is staying at the veterinary hospital recovering. Lucky will be transported to the Brookhaven Animal Shelter upon release from the veterinary hospital.

Keelan, 35, was charged with Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, and two counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on March 6.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, right, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Suffolk County Police Department suspended two officers for kicking Christopher Cruz, a 30-year-old homeless man who stole a car and injured two other officers, after he had been handcuffed.

Cruz had stolen a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Port Jefferson Station late on the evening of Feb. 23. During a 35-minute chase, Cruz rammed two police cars, injuring two officers who were eventually treated and released from the hospital.

Cruz, who has been charged with several crimes, including third-degree grand larceny, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest, was kicked by officers who now face their own criminal investigation. At the same time, four other officers, including a supervisor, who didn’t stop the assault on a handcuffed suspect, are also on modified duty pending the investigation.

“The matter is now in the hands of [District Attorney Timothy Sini’s] office, and I can confirm that there is a criminal investigation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a press conference on Tuesday night.

The two officers have been suspended without pay.

“If we are to continue to build trust with all of our communities, we have to be transparent and we have to hold our officers to the highest standards,” SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart, said during the press conference.

Hart called the incident “disturbing” and said the department would continue its internal investigation.

The investigation of the officers’ behavior came to light after officials reviewed a recording from another responding officer’s body camera.

“While Cruz was standing up and handcuffed, a 6th Precinct police officer pushed the arrestee forward from behind and kicked the back of his leg,” Hart described. “The officer who initially pushed Cruz and one other officer kicked Cruz multiple times while he was on the ground.”

Hart called the inaction of other officers “unacceptable” and said the “number of officers who did not intervene is a direct violation of our rules and procedures.”

She called the actions against the officers “swift” and said the investigation would continue and could involve other police officers.

The police made a formal referral to Sini (D), who was a former police commissioner, and had pledged to clean up the county’s law enforcement agency amid a scandal engulfing the former DA.

Hart recognized that the public would express outrage at the video.

“People will be rightfully angry and disappointed and I can tell you that I am, too,” Hart said. “This type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Hart added that the incident should serve as a message to the rank and file that “we must be better. I expect our officers to act with respect and restraint. If you witness misconduct by a fellow officer, you are obligated to stop it.”

Hart assured the public that the matter is “being taken very seriously.”

Bellone, meanwhile, who also called the video “disturbing,” underscored the review the county was conducting of police policy.

These types of reviews are occurring throughout the country, particularly after several high-profile incidents of police actions caught on video. The death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of police officers now charged with his murder, triggered numerous protests throughout the country.

Bellone said the video of the Cruz arrest is a “stark example of why those [body cameras] are so vital and important. I can tell you that I will not move forward and present a police reform plan that does not include body cameras for the police department.”

 

 

 

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.