By Danny Schrafel
Sheldon Leftenant, the purported gang member accused of shooting Second Precinct Officer Mark Collins after running from a traffic stop, has a “long history of violence” in the Huntington Station community and “didn’t care about shooting a cop,” prosecutors alleged in court today.
Those statements came after Leftenant, with addresses on Tippin Drive in Huntington Station and McKinley Drive in Mastic Beach, was arraigned in Riverhead this morning on charges of attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. Leftenant was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday, March 17.
He pleaded not guilty and remains held without bail.
Leftenant is accused of firing four shots at Collins, striking him once in the neck and once in the hip, during a struggle at 11 Mercer Court near East Jericho Turnpike at 11:58 p.m. March 11. The gun he allegedly used, a .38-caliber revolver, was found in a neighboring yard, according to District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Previously, Spota said Leftenant, in an oral admission, told Suffolk detectives, “‘I did what I had to do. I didn’t want to get caught with the gun on me, so I ran.’” Spota added during a post-arraignment press conference that Leftenant also said he “didn’t care about shooting a cop,” and that his only concern was to escape.
A purported member of the Huntington-based Tip Top Boyz street gang, Leftenant faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted. Should Leftenant be convicted, Spota has pledged to seek the maximum penalty.
Citing “overwhelming evidence,” Spota said he is confident Leftenant will spend the rest of his life in jail – “where he belongs,” the DA said.
The courtroom was filled with police officers supporting their comrade. Family and friends of Leftenant brushed past reporters after court, refusing to answer questions. One told reporters to “get away,” and another threatened to sue a videographer if her young daughter’s face was shown on camera. As they walked down the spiral staircase of the courthouse, several shouted, “Free Shel!” as they left.
The case will resume May 4, Judge John Collins said, so Leftenant’s attorney, Central Islip-based attorney Ian T. Fitzgerald, can get up to speed.
Police said the night of the incident, Collins, a plain-clothes gang officer, was conducting a traffic stop while in an unmarked car. Spota said police pulled over the vehicle, which had four occupants, because they had passed the unmarked car and were swerving in and out of lanes of traffic at high speed.
During the traffic stop, as the driver turned over his license and registration, the two back-seat passengers – one of whom was Leftenant – were “fidgety, nervous, moving their hands in and out of their pockets,” Spota said.
The incident escalated when Collins ordered Leftenant out of the car, Spota said. Instead, authorities say he ran for it. Collins and another officer ran after him.
When they reached 11 Mercer Court, Leftenant began to run down the driveway, he hit a dead-end – a gate was in his way. Spota said Collins tased Leftenant twice but was unable to immobilize him. While he was on the ground near the gate, attempting to cuff Leftenant, the suspect allegedly opened fire.
In court, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said Leftenant then ran through several backyards on Mercer Court. A K9 unit discovered the revolver next door, he continued, and a second K9 unit discovered Leftenant hiding in a shed on East 25th Street, where he was arrested.
The only shots fired during the incident were fired by Leftenant, Spota said.
Collins, 35, a decorated officer in the Second Precinct Crime Section’s anti-gang unit, was released from Stony Brook University Medical Center Sunday, March 15, after about three and a half days of in-patient care. He is currently recovering at home in North Bellmore and undergoing physical therapy six days a week, with a particular focus on his vocal chords and vertebrae.
In arguing to continue to remand Leftenant, Biancavilla cited the defendant’s “long history of violence” in Huntington Station.
Leftenant is a “recorded” member of the Tip Top Boyz street gang, Spota said. The gang, according to Second Precinct Sgt. Steven Saar of the precinct’s gang unit, was responsible for targeting members of a local Crips outfit during a November 2011 shooting at the Lincoln Farms Apartments in Huntington Station.
Leftenant was one of 11 arrested in connection with that incident. He pleaded guilty to a count of fourth-degree criminal facilitation and was sentenced to a year in the county jail and five years probation on Nov. 29, 2012. Spota said Friday that Leftenant was not involved in the actual shooting, but was “part of the crowd” that gathered.