Officials: Rockland deputy loses gun in road rage incident, suspended

Mounted officer James Clapp of Rockland County Sheriff's Mounted officer James Clapp of Rockland County Sheriff's Mounted Unit rides Shields, one of six horses used by law enforcement, on Patrick Farm in Suffern. (Oct. 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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A Rockland County Sheriff's Deputy has been suspended without pay -- and may be fired -- after a recent road rage incident in which officials said he lost his gun.

Officer James Clapp, a 14-year member of the sheriff's office and member of the Mounted Unit, has been suspended since Thursday, Sheriff Louis Falco said.

"This is possibly a lapse in judgment but I'm very disappointed in the officer," Sheriff Louis Falco said. "The potential punishment is anything from a determinate period of suspension to dismissal."

The sheriff's office is investigating an incident that occurred just before 3 a.m. Nov. 10 on Route 45 in Ramapo, Falco said. Clapp is accused of getting into a roadside scuffle with two men, Jose and Gregory Lopez of Haverstraw.

Clapp's car and the vehicle belonging to the Lopezes -- whose relationship remains unclear- engaged in a back and forth high-speed passing duel with their cars' headlights in high-beam mode, Falco said.

Clapp left his car to engage the two men in an altercation and wound up losing his gun in the scuffle. Sheriff's investigators are probing how Clapp lost the gun, Falco said. No shots were fired during the altercation, he said. The two men gave Clapp back his gun at the scene.

It's not known if the gun was Clapp's service weapon or an off-duty gun that he was carrying, Falco said.

Clapp could not be reached for comment. Ted Brovarski, the president of the Rockland County Sheriff's Deputies Association, the union that represents Clapp, did not respond to requests for comment.

Falco said that Clapp could face a disciplinary hearing at the end of the investigation. No criminal charges were filed in the incident, officials said.

Clapp is accused of gross misconduct, failure to identify himself as a police officer, and conduct unbecoming an officer, Falco said.

More administrative charges could be lodged before Clapp's case is heard by a hearing officer, who will make a recommendation as to his fate.

The Sheriff's Mounted Unit operates from March to November. In November, mounted officers join the patrol unit as police horses are not used during the winter months, Falco said.

Clapp has cooperated with sheriff's investigators during the probe, officials said. Falco did not give a timetable on when the investigation would be completed and a departmental hearing scheduled.

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