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Long IslandCrime

Cops arrest East Patchogue man after highway car chase

An East Patchogue man swiped a Jeep and sped down a highway Wednesday with officers in pursuit, police said - the second time he's commandeered a vehicle and led police on a chase, records show. Matthew Zerafa, 19, was arrested more than 30 minutes and 20 miles after a Riverhead Town police sergeant spotted him in Aquebogue at the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee a family member had reported stolen earlier in the day. The sergeant ordered him to pull over, but Zerafa refused, Riverhead police said. After a short chase through Riverhead, Zerafa reached Sunrise Highway and headed west at high speed, according to Lt. David Lessard of Riverhead Town police. Zerafa drove well over the highway's 55-mph speed limit, officials said. After leaving the department's jurisdiction, two Riverhead Town patrol cars dropped out and the pursuit was picked up by New York State Police units, Suffolk County officers and county sheriff's deputies. A county police helicopter helped coordinate the chase, Lessard said. Officials said Zerafa drove onto a dirt road in a wooded area near Sunrise Avenue in Patchogue, hit a tree and ran from the Jeep, which suffered significant damage. A State Police trooper found him a short time later and arrested him about 12:30 p.m. No one was injured in the chase. Reached at Zerafa's home Wednesday, a family member called the incident "unfortunate," but declined to comment further. Zerafa was taken to an East End State Police facility. Riverhead Town police said he would be charged there with unlawful fleeing of a police officer, reckless driving and more than a dozen traffic violations. Zerafa was later released to Suffolk County police and charged with grand larceny and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a police spokesman said. He was to remain overnight at the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue and be arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Central Islip. In 2006, Zerafa, then 16, led officers on a 15-minute chase in his parents' Jeep that damaged three patrol cars and sent two officers to the hospital with minor injuries, Suffolk police said at the time. That chase ended when he crashed into a utility pole in Patchogue.


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