The Great Neck plastic surgeon who’s facing felony charges after police seized a cache of weapons from his vehicle and residences in Nassau and Westchester counties isn’t an extremist or public safety threat, but a doctor who “loves guns,” his attorney said Thursday.
Dr. Matthew Bonanno, 47, remained in the Westchester County jail without bail Thursday following his Tuckahoe Village Court arraignment two days earlier on several counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
Tuckahoe police arrested Bonanno on Monday after a friend heard Bonanno make a threat about killing his ex-wife and her family and saw him display a gun after picking him up at her house, according to Westchester district attorney’s spokeswoman Helen Jonsen.
After arriving at Growlers Beer Bistro in Tuckahoe, the friend stepped out and called 911, leading to Bonanno’s arrest and the weapon seizures, Jonsen said.
Westchester authorities previously announced a local and federal multiagency investigation into where Bonanno got the weapons and what he was going to do with them.
But Bonanno’s Manhattan attorney, Paul Gentile, said in a Newsday interview Thursday that his client is a dedicated physician who does a lot of good work in the community and practices medicine primarily on Long Island.
“With all the stuff that goes on in this country, people are tremendously fearful of an individual out there with an agenda," Gentile said. "But this guy … doesn’t belong to any radical group. You’re not going to find him on YouTube … He’s a doctor and he loves guns.”
Bonanno also has assisted military and law enforcement personnel, according to Gentile, who served in the past as the Bronx district attorney.
“This is an outstanding plastic surgeon who has done work with the armed forces in helping veterans reconstruct their bodies and their faces,” Gentile said.
The defense attorney added that Bonanno has an affiliation with the State Police as a surgeon — a designation that comes with a badge that he said authorities also seized.
The union for state troopers designates some surgeons as medical providers, who then get access to marksmanship instruction and special credentials. But Bonanno’s participation in that program couldn’t be immediately confirmed Thursday with the organization.
Gentile said Bonanno, as a gun enthusiast and outdoorsman, collects all different kinds of weaponry and hunts.
The attorney said his client spent the hours before his arrest at a barbecue with his ex-wife, their daughter and other family members at what he described as “a cordial get-together.”
Gentile said he couldn't comment on the specific allegations against his client.
After Bonanno’s arrest, the doctor cooperated with police and “led them to every single one” of his weapons, Gentile said.
The defense attorney added that the plastic surgeon had three surgeries scheduled for Tuesday, which he then missed because of his arrest.
“It doesn’t sound to me like a guy who plans to do something bad,” Gentile said.
Authorities have said they recovered a slew of weaponry from Bonanno’s vehicle, which was parked in the driveway of his ex-wife’s Tuckahoe home.
Law enforcement officials said the haul included five assault rifles, three handguns, 29 high-capacity loaded magazines, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, a stun gun, body armor, handcuffs, masks, knives, scopes and binoculars.
Authorities said they seized “another large cache” at his East Shore Road apartment in Great Neck that included assault rifles, at least one shotgun, handguns, high capacity magazines, body armor, ammunition and smoke grenades.
Law enforcement officials said they also recovered three unlicensed handguns that Bonanno kept at his parents’ home in Mount Pleasant. At the time of his arrest, Bonanno also had an illegal, loaded semiautomatic handgun in his friend's vehicle, according to police.
The physician had a more minor brush with law enforcement in 2015 in Queens. He pleaded guilty that December to driving while impaired following his arrest that August, the Queens district attorney’s office said Thursday.
Nassau police spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said Thursday that Bonanno was not licensed locally as a gun owner and had no prior contact with the department.
LeBrun said there was a possibility of Bonanno facing local charges and that Nassau police were “reviewing the case” with Tuckahoe police.
At the posh waterfront apartment complex where Bonanno lives in Great Neck, there was no sign Thursday of any disturbance near his unit.
Another resident of Bonanno’s floor said she had never met the surgeon and hadn’t heard that authorities had seized so many weapons from his apartment earlier this week.
“I had no idea. It’s scary, very scary,” said Samantha Santoro, as she sunned herself by the complex’s pool. “You pay a lot of money to live here. You wouldn’t expect that.”
Bonanno is due back in a Westchester court next week.