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Long IslandCrime

Elmont man who fired shots surrenders after call from police and show of force

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder on Monday spoke about the search warrant that was issued after a New York City off-duty police officer heard his neighbor on Clay Street in Elmont firing shots that he believed to be an automatic weapon.  Credit: Jim Staubitser

Heavily armed officers with guns drawn and armored vehicles surrounded an Elmont house Monday after getting a report that a resident fired several rounds from what may have been an assault rifle Sunday night in his backyard, Nassau County police said. 

After waiting for the safety of daylight to descend on the Clay Street home, police telephoned the man, Robert Hoenig, 49, and he came out to surrender peacefully, said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Investigators have surveillance video showing the incident in Hoenig's backyard and believe between three to six shots were fired into the ground from an AK-47, which is illegal to possess in New York State, the commissioner said.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” Ryder said of the allegations. “You fire a gun into the ground, you hit a brick, it ricochets and someone could get hurt.”

The AK-47 and two other unlicensed guns were found in the home, Ryder said. Hoenig also had "five high power large capacity ammunition feeding devices," police said in a news release Tuesday.

Hoenig was charged with five counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon feeding device, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree reckless endangerment. He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in First District Court in Hempstead.

No one was hurt in the gunfire and in the arrest, police said.

The shots were fired at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, the release said. The saga started about 6:30 p.m. when a neighbor, who was an off-duty NYPD deputy chief, went to the Fifth Precinct to report what he saw after hearing the gunfire, police said.

"When he looked over the fence, he saw the neighbor fire additional rounds into the ground from what appeared to be an assault rifle,” Ryder said.

Officers were assigned to watch the house overnight as authorities filed for a search warrant and waited to make their move in the daylight. 

"We did not want to make it confrontational, so we sat on the house until this morning," Ryder said. "We started to roll our SWAT guys and Bearcat (armored vehicle) into position. We made the phone call inside. He came out and he peacefully surrendered this morning."

Two other people, whom Ryder described as tenants, were in the two-family home at the time of the raid.

Ryder said police want to know if the weapon was modified in any way and that the investigation was ongoing.

The commissioner said the suspect's criminal record, combined with a report of an assault rifle, prompted police to be extra careful in handling the situation. A police spokeswoman did not have additional details on Tuesday morning.

"When you have an automatic weapon … we need to take it slow," the commissioner said. "Nobody's going to go knocking on the door in the middle of the night, when you have darkness, which is always a consideration. When you start to amass that type of troops together, it obviously could have woken him up, and it could have been a confrontation that we didn't want.

"He walked out, thank God." 

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