Two shootings within two days rattled the North Fork last week, though police said the incidents are rare, especially in Southold Town.
Suspects have been caught in both cases. The four men (one from Aquebogue) who allegedly attacked two other men in Southold last Tuesday have been indicted by a grand jury on felony assault charges. Authorities say a fifth suspect may also have been involved.
The two men allegedly responsible for a shooting in Flanders last Wednesday that critically injured one man are currently being held without bail at the Suffolk County jail. Police did not immediately say if the shooting appeared to be gang-related.
While the two incidents occurred relatively soon after one another, and came less than a week after a previous shooting incident, police say gunplay is not common on the North Fork. Yet no hard numbers on the number of shootings that have occurred in Riverhead and Southold recently were immediately available.
Both Southold and Riverhead’s case management systems list incidents using the language in the state’s code, such as “first-degree assault” or “second-degree assault” instead of “shooting” or “stabbing.”
Compiling how many shootings there were on the North Fork over an extended period of time requires police to go through each report of an assault and then pick out those that involved guns. Southold and Riverhead’s police chiefs say that’s because New York State requires incidents be broken down by penal code violation, and not by what kind of weapon — like a firearm — was used.
“We wouldn’t have them listed as an actual shooting itself,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley. “It’s what crime they fit into.” Those records are later given to the state and federal authorities.
Additionally, Chief Flatley said so few firearm assaults occur in Southold that a database of shooting incidents wouldn’t carry any investigative value.
“We don’t have a lot of shootings out here, thank God, so far,” he said.
Overall, assaults were down or remained steady in both Riverhead and Southold in 2013 compared to 2012, according to the department’s annual reports.
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Southold police data shows seven assaults were reported in 2013, the lowest total in at least 10 years and lower than the 19 incidents reported in 2012. In Riverhead, there were 40 reported assaults in 2013, the same total as the previous year.
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said police — specifically the department’s Community Oriented Police Enforcement unit — investigate each incident to determine whether it may be related to gang violence.
The Oct. 10 shooting in Riverhead, in which a Hispanic man was shot in the back by two other Hispanic men, does not appear to be gang-related, he said.
Caption: Southold shooting suspects (from left) Walter Vasquez, 17, of Greenport; Pedro Emilio Santamaria, 31, of Greenport; and Jeremias Nathaniel Recinos Torres, 19, of Aquebogue are escorted by corrections officers into Southold Town Court Friday morning. The three were arraigned in Suffolk County court Wednesday. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Also by Paul Squire: