Suspicious backpack prompts car chase, crash
An off-duty state psychiatric center employee who unexpectedly showed up at his Brentwood workplace toting a suspicious backpack led police on a chase that ended when he crashed into two cars and overturned in Commack Sunday, Suffolk County police said.
Police said the part-time employee, whom they did not name, showed up just after 9 a.m. at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, leaving a backpack with wires sticking out of it in the building before going outside.
After the center alerted police, the man retrieved the backpack -- later broken apart by police with a water cannon and determined not to be dangerous -- and went to his car, authorities said. When a police officer approached the car and asked him to step outside, the man then drove forward, hitting the officer's unoccupied patrol car and causing the officer to jump out of the way, police said. The officer was uninjured, police said.
The man drove north on Commack Road, with officers following him, police said. The pursuit ended when the man crashed his vehicle into two others just north of Henry Street, causing minor injuries to at least three people, police said.
Witnesses said the car drove at a high speed on Commack while being chased. After hitting the two other moving cars, it overturned and skidded along the road on its roof. The suspect's car ended up close to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at 650 Commack Rd.
Lisa Bailey, 48, a registered nurse who lives in Dix Hills, was on her way to church with her daughter about 9:10 a.m. driving north on Commack Road when she saw a silver sedan go past her at what she estimated to be 80 mph, crash and flip over. She said she ran to help the people inside the cars.
Another witness, Joseph Llanes, 37, of Shirley, was on his way to work also on Commack Road when he heard a collision and saw a vehicle spinning by him.
"I was in some kind of state of shock for the first 15 seconds," Llanes said. "I saw the car fly by, the other car spinning past me -- I couldn't believe it."
The spinning car had a family inside, he said. "The wife had her mouth open and her hands up . . . The son had his hands up, the husband was fighting the steering wheel pretty bad. It was like 'The Wizard of Oz' when tornado goes by."
The man police were chasing had minor injuries and was in custody Sunday at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. No charges had been filed Sunday.
No one from Pilgrim could be reached Sunday.
The police Emergency Service Section X-rayed the bag found in the man's car, then used a high-powered shot of water to break it apart, police said.