Detective to retire, probed theft of police official's gear

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The Suffolk County police detective who handled the initial investigation of the man accused of breaking into Suffolk Chief of Department James Burke's department-issued vehicle plans to retire.

Det. Thomas Cottingham, 44, filed papers this week to retire from the department after 21 years on the force. His official date of retirement is listed as July 31, according to the state comptroller's office.

The department confirmed Cottingham's retirement Wednesday but declined to give any details about his career.

Cottingham was the lead investigator in the case against Christopher Loeb, who along with an accomplice is accused of taking a bag out of Burke's SUV on Dec. 14, documents said.

Federal officials are investigating Burke to see if he violated Loeb's civil rights after the Smithtown man told family members that the chief punched him in the Fourth Precinct squad room, his mother, Jane Loeb, said last month.

Cottingham took statements from Loeb, 26, and alleged accomplice Gabriel Miguelez at the Fourth Precinct the day they were arrested, Dec. 14, and filed three of the felony complaints against Loeb -- fourth-degree grand larceny and two counts of third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Cottingham joined the force in 1993 and was featured in Newsday in 2007 as a decorated officer. He could not be reached for comment.

Cottingham's retirement comes nearly three weeks after Loeb's defense attorney Toni Marie Angeli requested to be taken off the case. The Garden City-based attorney told the court she had a conflict and asked to be removed. Riverhead-based attorney Daniel Barker now represents Loeb, who is due back in court Aug 6.

Angeli applied for the removal days after the FBI served nearly a dozen subpoenas to Suffolk police officers, detectives and headquarters personnel who may have direct knowledge or indirect knowledge of what happened the day of Loeb's arrest at his Smithtown home or at the Fourth Precinct where he was processed. More subpoenas have been issued since and will continue to be served as the probe continues, sources said.

Loeb also faces charges of fourth- and fifth-degree possession of stolen property and seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance. He admitted to taking items from Burke's GMC Yukon in two statements to Cottingham.

Police and prosecutors say Loeb and Miguelez took a bag out of Burke's vehicle. Records show Burke's bag contained a gun belt, ammunition, cigars and other items.

Suffolk police Commissioner Ed Webber has declined to comment. Burke has denied any wrongdoing.

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