A trial will begin Tuesday for a man accused of shooting an officer after fleeing a police stop in Huntington Station last winter.
Officer Mark Collins was seriously injured when he was shot in the neck and the hip on the night of March 11 during an alleged struggle with the suspect, 23-year-old Huntington Station resident Sheldon Leftenant, who has pleaded not guilty to attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said earlier this year that Leftenant faces up to life in prison if he is convicted.
Collins was in plainclothes while working for the 2nd Precinct’s gang unit on the night of the shooting, and helped pull over a car in which Leftenant was a passenger, Spota said. When asked to get out of the car, the suspect fled and Collins gave chase until he cornered Leftenant, an alleged member of the “Tip Top Boyz” street gang, on Mercer Court.
“He had his police-issued Taser in hand,” Spota said. “He never drew his weapon.”
The DA said at the time that Collins, who was unaware the suspect had a gun, used his Taser on Leftenant twice, hitting him in his back.
“While it brought the defendant to the ground, unfortunately it did not completely immobilize him,” Spota said.
When Collins went to handcuff Leftenant in that Mercer Court driveway, there was struggle, he said. A gun fired four times in quick succession and Collins was shot in the hip and in the neck, close to his carotid artery.
“Collins knew right away he had been shot because he couldn’t feel anything on his right side and he couldn’t move at all his right arm or his right leg,” Spota said.
To protect himself, the injured officer dragged himself over to a stoop and took cover under his bulletproof vest, facing it toward the suspect.
Spota said Leftenant fled after the shooting and dropped the weapon in the backyard of a neighboring property before hiding about a quarter of a mile from the scene.
Canine unit officers arrived and found both the gun allegedly used to shoot Collins as well as Leftenant.
At the time of Leftenant’s arraignment, defense attorney Ian Fitzgerald said his client was sorry to be in this situation, but wouldn’t comment any further.
A handful of the suspect’s family members were in the audience at that court appearance. They would not comment on Leftenant’s case either, but they left the courtroom chanting, “Free Shel.”
This case was not the first time Leftenant’s name had been involved in a shooting. About seven months earlier, he was shot in the groin while standing with a group of people in front of his Tippin Drive home, when two vehicles drove by and someone fired a gun.
At that time, police said Leftenant was originally treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Huntington Hospital and later underwent surgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
Although Collins was seriously wounded in the shooting last March, he has since recovered and returned to work, the DA’s office said recently, calling the officer “a decorated 13-year veteran.”
The two other shots from the .38-caliber revolver were found inside the home on whose property the struggle took place, the DA said, but no one inside at the time was injured.
Opening statements in Leftenant’s trial were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Riverhead.