By Danny Schrafel
Police have released the name of the man who allegedly shot a police officer twice after running from a traffic stop near East Jericho Turnpike shortly before midnight Wednesday.
Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Huntington Station, was arrested at 1 a.m. Thursday and was charged with attempted aggravated murder and resisting arrest. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip today.
Officer Mark Collins, a decorated a gang unit officer with Second Precinct, is in “serious but stable condition” after being shot in the neck and hip, but is expected to survive, officials said.
Collins, 35, of North Bellmore, was airlifted by police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital. He is a 12-year veteran of the force and was Suffolk County Police Officer of the Year in 2009, according to a statement Thursday by State Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).
“He’s going to be OK,” an officer on the scene Thursday morning said.
Police said Collins was conducting a traffic stop with two other officers while in an unmarked car near East Jericho Turnpike and Mercer Court. An incident with one of the stopped cars escalated, according to published reports, when Leftenant, one of the four people in the stopped car, started to run away. Collins took off after him.
Dr. Steven Ploksy Sr., whose son’s dental practice is located at the East Jericho-Mercer intersection, said surveillance video from his building showed two people running across his parking lot from East Jericho Turnpike toward Mercer Court. He turned the video over to authorities this morning.
Near 11 Mercer Court, after a confrontation, Leftenant allegedly shot Collins in the neck and hip, according to a 911 call received shortly before midnight, police said.
After an “intensive search” for the suspect utilizing units from several precincts and specialized units, Leftenant was located approximately one block from the traffic stop, police said.
Police canvassed the small dead-end street for more than 11 hours, and the road reopened at around 11:25 a.m. Thursday.
Mercer Court resident Frank Mataska, 61, who said he slept through the incident, said he woke up Thursday morning to scores of police on his block.
“I was moving cars around, and an officer approached me and asked me some questions,” he said.
Mataska, who has lived on the block for about three and a half years, said there has been trouble on the block before.
“I’m hoping it gets better. People seem to have an anti-attitude about authority,” he said. “Just threatening – you have to call the police to get people off your property, from damaging your property, things like that.”
In the meantime, the officer is “more important than anybody at this point,” he said.
“It’s terrible. Really terrible,” Mataska said. “We’re going to say some prayers for the man and hope for the best for him… It’s a shame.”
Elected officials shared similar sentiments in statements Thursday.
“My deepest appreciation goes out to Suffolk's finest for continuing to put themselves in harm's way to protect our communities. May God watch over Officer Collins and his family,” Bellone said.
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) said the incident serves as a “devastating reminder of the constant dangers faced by those who wear a police uniform.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Collins – and his family and friends – for a swift and full recovery,” Lupinacci said. “Officer Collins and others like him whose courageous actions defend our communities are admirable and greatly deserving of recognition.”
Marcellino called the attack “brutal,” perpetuated by a “coward.”
“This heinous crime reminds us how lucky we are to have the finest law enforcement officers protecting us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “The coward who allegedly pulled the trigger has been arrested and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”