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Suffolk police followed Coram driver who caused fatal crash, cops say

The scene of the crash at County Road

The scene of the crash at County Road 101 and Station Road in Medford early Sunday afternoon. Credit: James Carbone

A Coram man — who Suffolk police acknowledged Monday was being followed by an officer in a marked patrol vehicle — drove through a red light in Medford and crashed his Mercedes-Benz into a vehicle, killing the other driver, the department said.

James Palumbo, 56, of Yaphank, was going south in a 2021 Chevrolet and making a left turn when he was hit by the Mercedes-Benz, according to a department statement Sunday night. The statement said Palumbo was pronounced dead at Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue.

The Mercedes driver, Malcolm Stewart, 29, was driving north on County Road 101 along with his passenger, Savanna Steinbach, 23, of Shirley, police said. Stewart went through a red light at the intersection of County Road 101 and Station Road, police said, striking Palumbo, who was trying to make a left turn onto Station Road during the 12:30 p.m. collision.

A news release the department issued Sunday night, about 10 hours after the crash, made no mention of police involvement before the crash.

Asked Sunday night whether the police were following Stewart before the crash, a department email responded: "There was no police pursuit."

But Monday afternoon, in response to questions, the department acknowledged an officer was following Stewart at the time of the crash.

A department spokesperson said in an email, Stewart "made a U-turn in the middle of the roadway in front of an officer and then drove through a stop sign."

Police said in another email that the officer saw Stewart was operating the vehicle "in a suspicious manner." It added: "The officer indicated he was a distance behind the car on County Route 101 and was attempting to follow the car when he observed the Mercedes-Benz collide with another car further up the road on County Route 101...The matter is under investigation."

Stewart and Steinbach were both arrested on drug possession charges and Stewart was also charged with weapon possession in connection with a .45 caliber handgun, police said, adding that drugs were found on him and in the vehicle.

It was not clear if additional charges would be brought stemming from the crash.

Stewart and Steinbach were taken to Long Island Community Hospital for "non-life-threatening injuries," police said, and will be arraigned at a later date.

Neither Stewart nor Steinbach could be reached for comment Monday, and no attorney could be located.

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