Investigators were searching Tuesday for an older, light-colored minivan involved in a road-rage incident that ended in gunfire minutes later — with a bullet hitting a passenger and a second bullet nearly striking their 11-week-old daughter, Suffolk County police said.
Two shots were fired from the minivan at the Ronkonkoma couple’s Hyundai after both vehicles “engaged in dangerous conduct” Monday on Sunrise Highway in East Patchogue, Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said.
One bullet pierced the rear passenger door, nicking Nichole McDowell’s pinkie, lodging in her thigh. She was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, where police said she was in stable condition Tuesday morning after undergoing surgery, police said.
The hospital declined to confirm whether McDowell, 27, was a patient.
A second bullet pierced a rear quarter panel — “dangerously close” to the couple’s 11-week-old girl in a child seat, behind McDowell, police said.
“The bullet was within a foot of where the baby was in the car seat,” Fifth Precinct Det. Sgt. Bryan McMenemy said.
Edward Pontis, 30, McDowell’s boyfriend and the Hyundai’s driver, was not hurt.
“It was a joint road rage incident, with both of them flashing high beams, passing each other,” Cameron said. He said Pontis admitted to “slamming on his brakes” in front of the minivan to slow it down.
The victims said the two to three occupants in the minivan were in their late teens or early 20s, Cameron said.
No one answered the door at the couple’s home Tuesday. Neither could be reached.
Police said the “high speed” incident started just before 8:50 p.m. Monday, when McDowell and Pontis noticed the minivan weaving in front of them in the westbound lanes, near Station Road in East Patchogue, police said.
Pontis flashed his lights at the minivan, whose driver slammed the brakes. After Pontis passed the other vehicle, the minivan driver sped up, tailgating and flashing his lights, police said.
About a mile later and with both vehicles going more than 55 mph, Pontis braked abruptly just before Hospital Road, police said, and that was when the minivan pulled up to the right and one of the occupants fired.
Pontis drove McDowell to Brookhaven. The minivan took the Hospital Road exit and drove off north on Sipp Avenue.
Hours later, McDowell wrote on Facebook: “Please if anyone seen anything call 5th precinct detectives!!! They almost shot my daughter!!! I got shot in the thigh.”