July 17, 2004
Long Island Constable Shot Dead; Suspect Killed
Officer Down: Lt. Richard Brooks, NYPD Ret. - [Oak Beach, New York]
By Jennifer Smith, Theresa Vargas and Joe Haberstroh, N.Y. Newsday
Long Island, N.Y. -- A Babylon Town bay constable was shot and killed on a quiet waterfront street in Oak Beach Friday by a man he had attempted to pull over for driving erratically, police said. A state park police officer later shot the suspect to death as he was attempting to flee.
Authorities identified the constable as Richard Brooks, 44, a retired New York City police officer who lives in Amityville and works one day a week as a constable, and the suspect as James Wilson, 42, of 79 Hawser Dr., Oak Beach.
The incident unfolded around 3 p.m. when Brooks, driving in a marked constable vehicle on the Robert Moses Causeway, saw Wilson driving erratically, said Suffolk Police Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick.
He said Brooks tried to pull Wilson over, but Wilson sped off to his house in nearby Oak Beach and rushed inside his home.
Brooks pulled his vehicle into Wilson's driveway and waited. Then as Brooks was calling for assistance, Wilson shot him from a second-story window with what police believe was a 12-gauge shotgun, Fitzpatrick said. Brooks, who was outside the car, was hit in the chest and fell in the driveway. Police said they did not how many times Wilson fired the weapon.
Wilson then got back into his vehicle, ran over Brooks -- who already was on the ground -- and fled the scene. State park police officers arrived and encountered Wilson in his vehicle nearby. Fitzpatrick said one of the park police officers shot Wilson after he brandished the shotgun.
"It appears that he was intoxicated and attempting to flee,” Fitzpatrick said of Wilson.
Wilson was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital. Hospital spokesman Pat Calabria said a man who was airlifted there Friday afternoon died of gunshot wounds, but he couldn't confirm it was Wilson. Police, however, later confirmed Wilson's death.
Brooks, who also was a volunteer with the Amityville Fire Department, is married with two children. An unidentified woman who answered the telephone at the Brooks home declined to comment, saying, "Sorry. This is not a good time ... I don't want to talk to anyone right now.”
A man who answered the telephone at an address for Wilson in Long Beach said, "No comment, except we express our deepest sympathies to all affected by the tragedy. Goodbye.”
Brooks' death marks the second time in less than a week that a local constable has died in the line of duty. On Monday, Patchogue Village Constable Felice Taldone died from injuries sustained while directing traffic last Saturday, when he was struck by an allegedly drunken driver.
Before this week, a peace officer last died in the line of duty in Suffolk County in 1992, when Suffolk Police Officer Henry Stewart was killed. An officer last died in the line of duty in Nassau in 1993, when Officer Gary Farley was killed.
Although they typically enforce boating and conservation laws from patrol boats, Long Island's bay constables also work on land, checking required permits at marinas and issuing summonses. All Long Island towns have bay constables, and most agencies hire summer officers for the busy boating season.
Babylon has two full-time bay constables and they hire several part-timers for the summer.
Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone said Brooks was within his jurisdiction in attempting to pull Wilson over on the highway.
"This is one of the saddest days in our history,” said Bellone, who went to the crime scene Friday. "Richard Brooks was out here today doing his job, doing his job to protect the public. And terribly, tragically, his life was lost because of his work.” Bellone said Brooks had worked three seasons as a bay constable.
The shooting shocked the people who live near Hawser Drive in the Oak Beach Association neighborhood, which is just east of the new Babylon town park at the former site of the Oak Beach Inn. The upscale community is clustered on a spit of land overlooking Fire Island Inlet.
"It's like some place where you would never expect this to happen,” said Joseph Cangialosi. "It's a very quiet, sheltered neighborhood.”
Added neighbor Peter Murray: "I have a better chance of choosing the Lotto numbers than I do of predicting this.”
Neighbors said Wilson had lived on Hawser Drive for about three years, seemed friendly and was frequently seen walking his dogs. Wilson "would go out of his way to say if you ever need anything,” Cangialosi said. "He really is a nice guy.”
Minutes before the shots rang out, Cangialosi said, he looked out his window and saw a marine patrol vehicle parked in the driveway of the house across the street. He said the vehicle's lights were flashing. "I saw that there and then a few minutes later I heard two shots,” he said.
Neighbor Alice Coon said she also heard two shots. She and others emerged from their homes to see a body on the ground and the apparent suspect's vehicle -- a white SUV -- run off the road and into high weeds.