Homeless man dies in garage during frigid Greenport night

A homeless man was found in this garage Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)
A homeless man was found in this garage Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

UPDATE, 11:10 a.m.: The Greenport man found dead Thursday night was homeless and had been arrested on several occasions for breaking into locations in the village to sleep.

Record lows across the tri-state area last night may have contributed to his death while sleeping in an unheated garage, authorities said.

According to Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, German Mendoza had been arrested “mostly for incidents which you would associate with being homeless,” such as public intoxication, petty larceny and trespassing.

He was arrested recently in two separate incidents: One for breaking into a woman’s home, drinking a beer and then falling asleep in her bed just two weeks after he had been arrested on the North Ferry.

Police said that Mr. Mendoza fell asleep on the ferry and refused to leave.

Det. Edward Grathwohl, who handled the case, said that the garage where Mr. Mendoza was found was having interior construction work done; he said it was possible that some people working on the garage had informed Mr. Mendoza that nobody would be around to bother him if he slept there overnight.

According to Jay Engle, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, a low of 5 degrees was reported in Greenport Thursday night into Friday. Across the tri-state area, record lows were reported in Islip, at JFK and LaGuardia Airports, at Central Park and in Bridgeport, Conn.

Temperatures ranged from 1 degree to 10.

Chief Flatley said that the exact cause of Mr. Mendoza’s death remains under investigation by the medical examiner.

Neighbors said the house police identified as the location of the death was owned by a Harlem couple, though no one rented it, to their knowledge. Penny and Patt Rudder, who live across the street from the house, said they had no idea anything had happened last night.

“That’s really sad,” Ms. Rudder said. “That’s crazy.”

After hearing of Mr. Mendoza’s death, Ms. Rudder said she wants to rally neighbors to do more for the local homeless population, like collect pillows and sleeping bags to distribute to keep them warm. Mr. Rudder already volunteers at John’s Place, a local shelter for homeless and needy people.

Ms. Rudder said while organizations like John’s Place help those downtown, there are few resources on the outskirts of the village.

“If there’s anything I can do, even make a pot of soup or something, if they’re out there freezing to death around the corner from me, for heaven’s sake, let me know.” she said.

ORIGINAL STORY: According to Southold Police, a man was found dead last night in a detached garage on Second Street in Greenport.

Police said 44-year-old German Mendoza was found by a friend who was checking on his well being due to the cold weather.

The death is not considered to be suspicious at this time. It is under investigation by Southold Town Police and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office.