Pubdate: Sun, 21 Apr 2002
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Newsday Inc.
Author: Samuel Bruchey
Note: Staff writers Sumathi Reddy and Ann Givens contributed to this story
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Suffolk Police: Accidental Shooting in Botched Drug Raid

A 20-year-old Bellport man was accidentally shot to death by a Suffolk
police officer Friday night during a botched raid of a suspected drug house
in Bellport, police said yesterday.

The shooting occurred about 10:30 p.m., just after eight highly trained
Emergency Service officers arrived at 862 Doane Ave. to execute a search
warrant, police said. As four officers charged toward the front door, two
men - Jose Colon and Aaron Hatcher, also 20 - unexpectedly came out the
front door, Chief of Department Philip Robilotto said during a news conference.

The lead officer, who was carrying a 9-mm submachine gun in one hand and a
shield in the other, stopped short and raised his weapon, said Robilotto
and Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Homicide Squad.

As he did, a second officer, who was carrying a battering ram, tripped over
a tree root and fell forward into the lead officer, causing the lead
officer's weapon to discharge, Robilotto said.

Colon was struck once in the left side of the head. The other two bullets
struck the side of the house. Colon was worked on by paramedics outside the
house, then transported to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center,
where he was pronounced dead yesterday morning.

"I am here to offer my condolences to the family," Robilotto said. "It was
a tragedy. It was an accident."

Colon's family declined to comment.

Police declined to identify any of the officers, but Newsday has learned
the officer whose weapon discharged is 14-year veteran Tony Gonzalez, who
has spent seven years in the elite Emergency Services unit and is under
consideration for detective.

The shooting was the first accidental death by an Emergency Services
officer, Robilotto said. The unit executes hundreds of warrants each year
much like SWAT teams, and requires weapons training at least once a month.

The officer's weapon holds a magazine of 30 rounds but was set to fire
three rounds with a single squeeze of the trigger. All three shots were
fired from about 20 feet away as Colon and Hatcher stood atop the three
concrete steps outside the house.

Seconds before the deadly mishap, police said they instructed Colon and
Hatcher to drop to the ground and show their hands. Hatcher complied but
Colon remained on his feet, police said.

"He was asked a number of times 'Show your hands, drop to the floor.' He
didn't and that's when the accident occurred," Fitzpatrick said.

Colon was not armed and had no illegal drugs in his possession, police said.

Numerous neighbors and friends of Colon were outraged by the shooting and
doubted Colon's death was accidental. "If this was in Deer Park, they would
be negotiating, they would be using a bullhorn and calling on people to
surrender," said one man who said Colon was his nephew by marriage but
declined to give his name.

Lonnie Holmes, 26, said Colon visited the house Friday night to repay a
debt before going to dinner with his girlfriend. As Colon's girlfriend
waited inside the car parked out front, Colon entered the house. It was
only a matter of minutes, Holmes said, before police arrived.

Police said they recovered between 8 ounces and one pound of marijuana and
a loaded semi-automatic rifle from the house.

Arrested on second-degree possession of marijuana were Hatcher, William
Holloway, 34, Romell May, 24, and Wendell Mabry, 30, all of Bellport,
police said. Hatcher also was charged with possession of a weapon, police
said. All are being held for arraignment today in First District Court in
Central Islip.

Police do not believe anyone was living in the house. According to property
records, Ervin Motley of Huntington Station sold the Bellport property to
Spring Equities NY Inc. in February 2000.

District Attorney Thomas Spota confirmed that his office executed a search
warrant Friday night at the Bellport house, where they suspected weapons
and illegal drug activity.

Colon was a member of the Victory Church of God in Bellport, where his
uncle served as pastor and where his father works the audio system. Colon
had graduated from Bellmore High School.
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