A West Babylon man pleaded not guilty to assault charges after allegedly attacking three people with a machete at a Patchogue Dick's Sporting Goods store Friday afternoon, officials said.
Treyvius Tunstall, 22, appeared Saturday in a Central Islip courtroom, where his court-appointed attorney entered not guilty pleas to three counts of assault and six counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
Police said Tunstall had gone to the Patchogue store about 3:15 p.m. Friday to buy rifles. When an employee required a background check, Tunstall walked away and then used the machete to attack a store employee and two customers, police said.
Standing outside the closed store Saturday, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said Tunstall had gone to a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Bay Shore around 1 p.m. Friday, where he bought a machete, a knife and a white backpack. He had asked to buy rifles there, but was redirected to the Patchogue store.
About two hours later, Tunstall arrived at the Patchogue store's rifle counter, wearing the backpack that held the weapons, Harrison said. He showed his ID, but walked away when a store employee asked for the background check, Harrison said.
"So many things could have gone wrong here," Harrison said. "If he was able to buy a rifle, who knows what he was planning to do with it. There was a man running around with a machete attacking people unprovoked. This could've been a lot worse."
About 15 customers and 10 employees were in the store at the time of the attack, Harrison said.
Pink signs at the front of the store Saturday announced that it was still closed. The store's corporate office could not be reached for comment.
All three of the attacks were unprovoked, Harrison said. Tunstall walked toward an emergency exit at the front of the store where, Harrison said, he attacked a store assistant manager who was moving a ladder.
The assistant manager was slashed in the torso, arms and head. Tunstall ran from the store where surveillance video shows he struck a customer in the head with the back of the machete, Harrison said.
Police and paramedics tied a tourniquet to stop the assistant manager's bleeding arm and may have saved his life, Harrison said. The attack severed tendons in the assistant manager's arms, requiring surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital, authorities said. He was listed in serious condition Saturday, but is expected to recover.
Tunstall then went into the parking lot and attacked another customer in the arm and shoulder, causing small cuts, Harrison said.
Police said Tunstall ran away through a wooded area to a nearby Pep Boys shop, where he threw the machete near a dumpster.
Police ordered him to the ground at gunpoint and arrested him, finding another knife, Harrison said.
No motive for the attack has been determined, and Tunstall did not say anything during the machete attacks, Harrison said.
Judge Bernard Cheng set bail Saturday at $400,000 cash or $800,000 bond and ordered Tunstall to stay away from the three victims.
His Suffolk County Legal Aid attorney, who declined to identify herself, requested a medical review, saying Tunstall may lack the cognitive function to understand the charges against him.
Tunstall's family members declined to comment as they exited the courtroom. He is due back in court Thursday.
Tunstall was previously arrested in 2018 for burglary and, earlier this year, he was charged with menacing for threatening his mother with a knife, Harrison said. Police searched Tunstall's online history and found no additional threats, Harrison said.
Harrison cited the importance of background checks after Gov. Kathy Hochul praised Suffolk on Friday for the county's use of Red Flag laws to keep weapons from anyone who poses a danger to themselves or others.
"I'm not sure his motive or why he was looking to buy these rifles," Harrison said. "I think it's very important to protect people. Certain laws need to be in place and red flag laws are going to be very instrumental to public safety."