By Danny Schrafel
A month after Second Precinct Officer Mark Collins was shot in the line of duty following a pursuit in Huntington Station, county officials, led by County Executive Steve Bellone and the chief and commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, honored on Tuesday the members of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad who responded to the call of “officer down” March 11.
In a letter to the squad, read by Second Precinct Inspector Edward Brady during a press conference Tuesday, Collins, a member of the precinct’s anti-gang unit, thanked the volunteers who rushed to his aid in his hour of need.
“Your members, as always, responded quickly and provide valuable pre-hospital care to stabilize my injuries, preparing me to be airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital for further care,” the letter, addressed to First Aid Squad Chief Thomas Lemp, reads. “Your members reacted brilliantly and professionally under stressful conditions, knowing it was a fellow member of the service… I am forever grateful for their service.”
It’s a call no ambulance corps ever wants to receive, but once they did, Huntington Community First Aid Squad members rushed to the scene and provided care that saved his life and greatly improved his prognosis for long-term recovery, Collins added in his letter.
Paramedic Chris Evers, who was part of the team that responded to the call that came in shortly before midnight March 11, said they first caught wind that something was “potentially escalating” through transmissions over the police scanner in the dispatch office.
The crew on duty was notified, and an ambulance crew was on the way to the corner of Mercer Court and East Jericho Turnpike. With a paramedic and EMT rushing to the scene and ambulances and another paramedic on the way, the call came in – it was a shooting, and the victim may be a police officer.
With suspect Sheldon Leftenant still on the loose after fleeing a traffic stop that Collins and his colleagues initiated, paramedics were advised that Collins had been shot in the neck and hip, and found him laying “supine on the driveway, aided by several officers in his unit,” Evers said.
Despite his wounds, Collins was alert, the paramedic said, and able to answer questions. As paramedics aided Collins, a Medevac helicopter was already on the way to the Target parking lot on Jericho Turnpike Collins had the wherewithal to radio for despite his injuries.
“The incident went as smoothly as possible. We were able to get Police Officer Collins to a level 1 trauma center in under an hour, which is always the goal in major trauma,” he said.
Brady said Collins is still recovering at home and undergoing physical therapy.
“The outcome here was as good as you could possibly get in a situation like this where an officer is shot twice,” Bellone said, adding that the overall efforts of first responders in this case were “absolutely incredible.”
Leftenant, 22, who is listed with addresses in Huntington Station and Mastic Beach, was detained about an hour after incident and later charged with the attempted aggravated murder of a police officer. He faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Edward Webber said the outcome in the Collins case is indicative of the squad’s work, which he became familiar with while working as a sergeant in Huntington Station and Huntington village from 1980-1985.
“I can attest firsthand to the excellent medical care provided to patients and the professionalism displayed by all the members of the squad,” he said.