The widow of Nassau County police Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf has filed a lawsuit against a retired NYPD cop, two MTA police officers and the MTA, claiming that they wrongfully caused her husband's death last year when he responded to a chaotic crime scene.
The lawsuit, filed by Paula Breitkopf, of Selden, in federal court in Brooklyn, listed MTA police Officer Glenn Gentile, who shot Breitkopf; Gentile's partner, Officer John Ramos; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and a retired city officer, John Cafarella, among its defendants. It seeks unspecified damages in Breitkopf's death.
"No one can replace her husband. No one can get her back her life," said John Zervopoulos of Manhattan, the attorney for Paula Breitkopf. "This is about revamping police procedures. She's hoping that this doesn't happen to anyone else."
Geoffrey Breitkopf, 40, a member of the Nassau County Police Department's Bureau of Special Operations, was shot in the chest just after 8 p.m. March 12, 2011, when he arrived at a crime scene minutes after police killed a masked, knife-wielding Anthony DiGeronimo, 21, inside his parents' Massapequa Park home.
Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Gentile, Ramos, Cafarella and a lawyer for David and Joanne DiGeronimo could not be reached for comment.
DiGeronimo's parents last year filed legal papers indicating their intention to sue the MTA, the City of New York and Nassau County for the wrongful death of their son.
A report into Breitkopf's shooting, released last month by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, found no criminality by Gentile or the officers who shot DiGeronimo.
The report found that Gentile "reasonably" believed that Breitkopf -- in plainclothes, armed with a police-issued M-4 assault rifle and not displaying his police badge -- posed a threat.
Paula Breitkopf's lawsuit says that her husband was wearing his police badge "hanging on a lanyard."
Zervopoulos said the MTA police officers should have taken a backseat to Nassau cops at the scene and should have told Breitkopf to drop his weapon rather than physically trying to stop him from entering the area.
"The MTA officer grabbed him [Breitkopf] without warning and tried to take away his gun. What they should have done instead of grabbing him, was give him a command," Zervopoulos said.
Zervopoulos said Cafarella helped to confuse the situation by shouting "gun" as Breitkopf approached the house, adding that the retired officer should not have been part of the crime scene at all.
The suit says DiGeronimo's parents were partly at fault, since they had known that their son had knives and psychological problems, but did nothing to avoid the tragedy.