The Suffolk police officer wounded in Wednesday night's Huntington Station shooting -- hailed as a hero by police officials -- has been lauded for his courage before.
Mark Collins, 35, a 12-year veteran, entered a burning home in 2008 and helped carry an elderly man to safety. The department later honored him with a gold medal for bravery.
Collins, a lifelong resident of North Bellmore, where he also serves as a fire commissioner, is revered for his commitment to his community.
Neighbors said Collins would plow the street after winter storms with a front-end loader. He personally responded to a 911 call a few years ago when a man who lives across the street was injured after falling down basement stairs.
Edward Kraus Jr., a friend and fellow fire commissioner, called Collins "a hero in every sense of the word. He'll absolutely deny it, because he is as humble as they come."
Dianne Mofson, a neighbor, said Collins is always ready to lend a hand.
"If there is anything [needed], Mark is there," she said.
Collins, a 1998 graduate of Wellington C. Mepham High School in Bellmore, has been a North Bellmore firefighter for more than a decade, serving as chief in 2013-14, Kraus said.
Kraus said Collins spearheaded efforts to build a local memorial outside the firehouse, using steel salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center.
"He was there with heavy machinery, making sure everything was perfect to a 'T,' " Kraus said.
Collins, who worked in recent years with the police gang unit, has had his share of dramatic encounters as an officer.
On July 4, 2007, he and partner Kevin Quinn tried to pull over an erratic driver in Huntington Station. The driver rammed the officers' vehicle three times during the pursuit, disabling both cars.
Collins and Quinn arrested the suspect after a struggle, recovering a loaded pistol and bags of crack cocaine, police said. Collins' actions earned him the Second Precinct's "Cop of the Year" award.
The following year, Collins and other officers were recognized for their bravery in rescuing 70-year-old Norman Mrwik.
As Mrwik's Huntington Station home burned, Collins and another officer rushed inside and found the man on his bed. They carried the disabled man to a window and passed him to cops outside.
Police said Collins was treated for burns to his face and ears, lacerations and smoke inhalation.
Yesterday, Collins, who is married, was in serious but stable condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, recovering from gunshot wounds to his neck and hip, authorities said.
A steady stream of firefighters and police officers visited the hospital.
Kraus said he delivered a bedside message.
"I told him that we need him back as soon as possible," he said. "The police department needs him; the fire department needs him."