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Sheldon Leftenant trial set to start for shooting Suffolk officer

Sheldon Leftenant is led on March 12, 2015,

Sheldon Leftenant is led on March 12, 2015, from the Third Precinct in Bay Shore to Criminal Court in Central Islip for arraignment. Leftenant is charged in the shooting of Officer Mark Collins and goes on trial Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

The man charged with shooting and nearly killing a Suffolk police officer last March in Huntington Station goes on trial Tuesday.

Sheldon Leftenant, 23, of Huntington Station is charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 40 years to life in prison.

He is accused of shooting Officer Mark Collins twice — once in the pelvis and once in the neck — after running away from a traffic stop on March 12 on Jericho Turnpike.

“This is one of the most straightforward cases you’ll encounter,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla. “There’s no magic here.”

There’s no question who shot Collins, he said — the officer knew Leftenant from previous encounters, and had Leftenant’s driver’s license in his pocket from the traffic stop.

Defense attorney Ian Fitzgerald declined to discuss the details of the case. “He’s getting his day in court,” he said of his client. The trial is in Riverhead before state Supreme Court Justice John Collins, who is no relation to the officer.

Prosecutors say Collins and other plainclothes officers pulled over the car with Leftenant in it for speeding just after midnight. The rear passengers, one of whom was Leftenant, attracted officers’ attention because they were fidgeting and seemed to be trying to keep their hands out of sight, so Collins ordered them out of the car, Biancavilla said.

After Leftenant got out, he took off across Jericho Turnpike and Collins ran after him, Biancavilla said. Collins fired a Taser at Leftenant but it failed to subdue him, Biancavilla said. When Collins tried to tackle Leftenant in a driveway on Mercer Court, the defendant pulled out a gun and fired four times, hitting Collins twice, Biancavilla said.

As Collins lost feeling on his right side and dragged himself behind the house’s steps, Leftenant ditched the gun and hid in a shed down the street, Biancavilla said. K-9 unit officers found Leftenant.

The gunshot to the neck came within millimeters of Collins’ carotid artery, Biancavilla said. The officer has recovered fully and is working full time in the police department’s Emergency Services Unit, Biancavilla said.

The case shows how dangerous police work can become in an instant, he said.

“These are the guys who are out there every day protecting you and me,” Biancavilla said.

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