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Suffolk police officer dragged by motorist cross-examined in driver's trial

The defense attorney tried to show Officer Gregory Sandbichler did not follow rules during the 2017 traffic stop, after which Michael Shear was charged with assault and aggravated DWI.

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

A Suffolk police officer who was dragged by a motorist at a traffic stop and later shot that driver conceded Thursday in a Riverhead courtroom that he did not follow several police department rules that night.

Officer Gregory Sandbichler was cross-examined for the second day by the attorney for Michael Shear, 35, a Holtsville steamfitter on trial. Shear is charged with assaulting Sandbichler for dragging him, aggravated driving while intoxicated and other offenses.

Sandbichler had pulled Shear over for speeding about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2017, and has said he noticed an odor of alcohol as he walked up to Shear's car window. Sandbichler said Shear cut the Patchogue traffic stop short and drove off, and the officer got dragged while trying to shock Shear with a Taser. Defense attorney Steven Politi of Central Islip has suggested his client drove off because Sandbichler was "a lunatic."

In a courtroom so hot that one attorney fanned herself with a pad of Post-its, Politi focused on several rules that he suggested Sandbichler broke.

Sandbichler has said that Shear had already started driving away when he tried to shock him with his Taser.

Department rules require an officer who has used a Taser to notify a supervisor as soon as possible.

During questioning by Politi, Sandbichler said he twice asked a dispatcher to have another officer retrieve the portable radio he dropped after getting dragged in a Patchogue parking lot and informed other officers that Shear was "highly intoxicated." But he did not radio that he had shocked Shear, he said.

"You're a rules-and-procedure follower, right?" Politi asked.

"I do my best," Sandbichler said. "I guess I was unaware if I'd Tased anybody at that point."

"You heard his scream [of pain], right?" Politi asked, referring to his client.

"I did," the officer said. He later said he didn't have time to notify his sergeant he'd used his Taser.

Politi asked why, after the shooting, Sandbichler's departmental Glock 40 pistol was missing three bullets even though he shot Shear only once. Regulations require an officer to start a shift with a fully loaded weapon.

Sandbichler said he may not have checked to see if it was fully loaded for the previous couple of days.

Politi also asked why Sandbichler overtook other officers pursuing Shear, when regulations require permission to do so from a supervisor.

Sandbichler said he announced over the radio he was going to do it, so he could put down spikes to stop Shear, and assumed he had clearance when no one told him not to do it.

"You did whatever you wanted that night, right?" Politi asked.

"No," the officer said.

For each apparent violation of procedure, Politi asked Sandbichler if he had been disciplined.

Each time, prosecutors objected and Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow disallowed the questions, ruling them to be irrelevant.

Braslow also has not permitted Politi to show that all the officers involved in the case consulted with Police Benevolent Association attorneys before filing reports, 36 hours after the incident.

Typically, officers file necessary paperwork at the end of their shifts.

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