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Suffolk police officer dragged by driver cross-examined in Riverhead trial

Officer Gregory Sandbichler defended his actions the night he was dragged by a Holtsville driver now on trial for drunken driving and assault.

Suffolk Police Officer Gregory Sandbichler, left, at Suffolk

Suffolk Police Officer Gregory Sandbichler, left, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Tuesday. Sandbichler testified at the trial of Michael Shear, right, seen Monday at the court. Photo Credit: Photos by James Carbone

The Suffolk County police officer who was dragged by a motorist after a traffic stop last year had his credibility attacked Wednesday in a Riverhead courtroom during cross-examination by the driver's defense attorney.

Officer Gregory Sandbichler is testifying at the trial of Michael Shear, 35, a Holtsville steamfitter charged with assaulting the officer by dragging him, driving while intoxicated and other offenses.

Shear's attorney, Steven Politi of Central Islip, has called Sandbichler "a lunatic" who's unfit to be a Suffolk officer. During Politi's sometimes pointed questioning, Sandbichler remained polite and even-tempered.

The officer testified that he initially joined the now-defunct Suffolk County Park Police in 2005 and was the valedictorian of his police academy class. Yet when he applied to be a county police officer in 2010, he was rejected.

"Were you upset?" Politi asked.

"Of course," Sandbichler said. He filed an appeal and lost it, he said.

In 2014, County Executive Steve Bellone ordered the park police absorbed into the county police as a cost-saving measure, and all park officers automatically became county police officers.

Politi also questioned whether Sandbichler acted properly in January, 2017 when he used his Taser to shock Shear while his Ford Expedition was in motion in a Patchogue shopping center parking lot. Sandbichler testified earlier that Shear told him that he "can't do this right now," then started his car and put it in gear.

The officer said he reached into the car to shock Shear into stopping and heard a shout of pain, but Shear kept driving, dragging Sandbichler 40 or 50 feet before he broke free.

Earlier Wednesday, Sandbichler said the dragging left him with three bulging spinal discs, a torn shoulder labrum and strained ligaments. It took him four months to recover, he said.

After the dragging, Sandbichler and other officers chased and caught Shear. There, Sandbichler said Shear refused to show him his hands and pointed the officer's lost Taser at him, so he shot Shear in the shoulder.

Politi asked if it was improper to shock a driver of a moving vehicle.

"When the subject is an imminent threat to public safety, it is OK to Tase a subject in a moving vehicle," Sandbichler replied.

Politi also questioned why Sandbichler was headed north, away from Patchogue's bar scene, when he first saw Shear.

"Drunk drivers are not just on Main Street," he replied.

The two also disagreed about whether a video of the dragging showed the Taser in Sandbichler's left or right hand (the officer is righthanded).

Because testimony did not begin until after 3 p.m. Wednesday, Politi did not question the officer yet about the chase and the shooting.  

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