Moments after a Huntington Station man was convicted Tuesday evening of the attempted murder of a Suffolk police officer, the defendant’s sister announced in the courtroom hall that the next cop who’s shot won’t survive.
“The next one who gets shot will get killed,” said Sheldon Leftenant’s sister, as colleagues of Officer Mark Collins walked by, shocked. “Next time, the [expletive] will be dead on the ground.”
Her angry words came after a jury convicted Leftenant, 23, of attempted aggravated murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.
Leftenant faces 40 years to life in prison when state Supreme Court Justice John Collins sentences him on March 11 — a year to the day from when Leftenant shot the officer in the neck, nearly killing him.
The reaction to the verdict surprised Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla.
“That’s crazy stuff,” he said. “That just gives you a flavor of what these guys [officers] are facing out in this community. That’s the mentality.”
Both Leftenant and Officer Collins were expressionless as they heard the verdict delivered by a sobbing forewoman, but the mother of Leftenant’s child broke into tears, had an anxiety attack and passed out in the courtroom.
The jury deliberated almost three hours. Collins declined to comment afterward.
Leftenant’s attorney, Ian Fitzgerald, said he was pleased the jury gave the case “due consideration.”
In his closing argument earlier in the day, he told jurors that his client “did not intend to kill anybody on March 11, 2015. That’s the central issue in this case.”
Fitzgerald said when Collins and other plainclothes officers used an unmarked car to stop the speeding car Leftenant was in, he and the three others in the vehicle couldn’t be sure they were dealing with police.
And after Leftenant ran, Fitzgerald said if he intended to kill Collins, he could have done it. Instead, he fired four shots wildly after Collins tackled him, Fitzgerald said. “That’s not intent,” he said.
Biancavilla, a former police officer, told jurors that police “give us peace of mind. They give us peace when we put our heads down on the pillow at night.”
He said Leftenant’s intent was clear when he pulled the trigger four times from inches away, hitting Collins twice.
“Sheldon Leftenant did not want to get caught with the gun,” Biancavilla said. “If it meant killing Officer Collins by shooting him four times, that’s what he did.”
Leftenant emptied his revolver before running away from the injured Collins.
“And that’s why Officer Collins happens to be here today, folks,” Biancavilla said. “Because Sheldon ran out of bullets.”
He noted that Leftenant knew Collins was a cop — they’d already known each other for eight years from previous encounters and had chatted briefly the night of the shooting before Leftenant abruptly bolted from the traffic stop.
Collins has returned to work and is now in the police department’s Emergency Services Unit.
Biancavilla said he was gratified by the verdict.
“You win one for the good guys sometimes,” he said. “This guy, Mark Collins, is a real hero.”