By Jano Tantongco
Two murders in two weeks in Greenlawn and Huntington Station have ignited community concern and furthered police mobilization.
Most recently, 18-year-old Antoine Butts-Miller was gunned down Saturday at around 3:30 a.m. when he stood with a large group of people in front of 233 5th Ave. in Huntington Station. Police said Butts-Miller worked at a Dunkin Donuts in Greenlawn. Another man, 31, was also shot and brought himself to Huntington Hospital.
Butts-Miller’s murder came just a week after another 18-year-old man was murdered in Greenlawn. On Aug. 20, the body of 18-year-old Estiven Abrego Gomez was found with “significant lacerations” in Greenlawn Park.
“Many of us are confused. Many of us are afraid, understandably,” Darryl St. George, president of the Greenlawn Civic Association, said Tuesday night during a public meeting hosted by the civic association in conjunction with Suffolk County Second Precinct brass.
“Unfortunately,” St. George continued, “this is not necessarily new to our town.”
The two recent cases are on the Suffolk County Police Department’s list of top priorities, said 2nd Precinct Deputy Inspector Matthew McCormick. But details on the cases were sparse.
Residents peppered the police with questions: if the incidents were gang-related; if Gomez was killed in the park; and if there were any suspects. McCormick said he could not comment, citing the ongoing investigations.
“What can you tell us?” a member of the roughly 120-person audience at Harborfields Public Library asked.
McCormick continued, “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t have some theory about what happened, but I can’t necessarily get into it. Whatever information we have, unfortunately, we sometimes have to keep it to ourselves, this way the suspect or bad guy doesn’t know what we have.”
Regarding the lack of new information, St. George said it is “expected that there would be some frustration as a result of not having more information.”
“But by the end, I think people understood that it’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.
In an interview earlier Tuesday, McCormick said that seven officers and a sergeant were recently added to Huntington Station’s Firearm Suppression Team to help curb crime.
“We’ve increased weekend patrols,” he added. “We’re hiring some overtime, we’re hiring some of our better cops to stay over Friday and Saturday nights, four hours apiece.”
Town of Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter said in an interview Tuesday that the town has been collaborating with police.
Supervisor Frank Petrone met with Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini prior to the Aug. 16 town board meeting to request additional patrols in town, according to Carter. That request was met "positively.”
Carter added that the town's newly-hired, armed park rangers are expected to this weekend begin patrols across town, focusing especially on the Huntington Station area.
"Hopefully the additional patrols will act as a further deterrent," he said. The rangers have jurisdiction on town-owned properties, like Greenlawn Park.
On the community’s end, 38-year-old Lamar Bennett suggested that a greater focus be placed on drug harm reduction and implementing more youth programs.
“We focus too much on arresting people and not enough on investing in our own communities,” said Bennett, of Huntington Station, a professor of public administration and public policy at Long Island University Brooklyn.
St. George similarly said the crimes are symptoms of deeper problems.
“It’s all related,” he said. “When we start talking about prevention, and we start eliminating the root causes, then we’re going to start to see the results that we’re all looking for.”
GoFundMe pages have been created for both victims to help cover funeral expenses. For Butts-Miller, the page is Gofundme.com/2m8hgm4. For Gomez, the page is Gofundme.com/23rjhkjw.
- With additional reporting by Andrew Wroblewski