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Suspect in Suffolk cop stabbing was violent even in custody, prosecutors say

Suffolk County police investigate the scene of the

Suffolk County police investigate the scene of the crash and stabbing on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue on Saturday. Credit: Christopher Sabella

The Centereach man accused of stabbing a Suffolk police officer during a Saturday night struggle remained violent even in custody, prosecutors said at the suspect’s virtual arraignment Tuesday.

Jonathan Nunez, 25, struggled with EMTs who took him in an ambulance to Long Island Community Hospital and kicked a police officer in the eye, according to prosecutors, who said the suspect had to had to be sedated.

Officer Christopher Racioppo, meanwhile, remained in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital Tuesday, said Dr. James Vosswinkel, the head of trauma at the hospital. The three-year veteran lost most of his blood after the struggle in Patchogue and nearly died, Vosswinkel said, and although he could make a full recovery, it is still too early for an accurate diagnosis.

Nunez, charged with aggravated assault upon a police officer with a deadly weapon, driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, pleaded not guilty at his virtual arraignment Tuesday and was ordered held without bail. The suspect, transported to LICH in East Patchogue for treatment of injuries sustained on Saturday, was arraigned from his hospital bed.

He is scheduled to return to court on Friday.

Prosecutors said Nunez could spend up to 25 years in prison if convicted. His Legal Aid attorney, Matt Harris, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Patients who lose significant amounts of blood might sustain damaged kidneys, lungs and other health problems, Vosswinkel said. The muscles in Racioppo’s left thigh were also severely damaged and he will require extensive rehabilitation to restore full use of his leg.

"We are still in the danger zone," Vosswinkel said. "It has only been 48 hours since he went through major trauma."

The good news, Vosswinkel said, is that Racioppo is being cared for by top-tier doctors, nurses and medical staff, and that his family and fellow cops have been at his bedside throughout his ordeal.

"You can’t discount the benefit of having that kind of support around somebody who is critically ill or critically injured," said Vosswinkel, who is also the Suffolk County Police Department’s chief consulting surgeon and medical director.

The injured officer was in a marked patrol car late Saturday when he saw a 1999 Mercedes-Benz driving erratically with no headlights southbound on South Ocean Avenue, police said.

When Racioppo attempted to stop the vehicle, Nunez sped off in the Mercedes and crashed into a 2004 Nissan at the intersection of South Ocean Avenue and Brook Street. Prosecutors said he climbed out his car, which had flipped to its side, and ran into the yard of a home on South Ocean Avenue, where he stabbed the officer. Prosecutors said he plunged the knife, since recovered by police, seven centimeters into Racioppo’s left thigh.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and other officials have praised the officers who provided aid at the scene and drove Racioppo to the hospital, saying that they saved the officer’s life. They also commended Patchogue resident Guillermo Sandoval, a former Marine who also provided aid to Racioppo, and retired NYPD detective Frank Recupero, who detained the suspect until police arrived.

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