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Part of Geoffrey Breitkopf friendly-fire lawsuit can proceed, judge rules

Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf, 40,

Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf, 40, of the elite Bureau of Special Operations, was shot and killed March 12, 2011 after responding to a report of a masked man running through a Massapequa Park neighborhood with knives, authorities said. Credit: NCPD

A federal judge has allowed part of a lawsuit filed by the widow of Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey J. Breit- kopf to move forward -- more than two years after he was killed by friendly fire in Massapequa Park.

The wrongful death suit that Paula Breitkopf of Selden filed in March 2012 sought unspecified damages against a number of parties, including MTA Police Officer Glenn Gentile, who fatally shot Geoffrey Breitkopf; Gentile's partner, Officer John Ramos; the City of New York; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and retired city police Officer John Cafarella.

In his decision issued Friday in federal court in Central Islip, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco ruled that claims against the MTA, Gentile and Cafarella can proceed, court records show. He rejected claims against Ramos, the city and the parents of Anthony DiGeronimo, 21, the knife-wielding man also shot dead at the chaotic crime scene on March 12, 2011.

"The people who are the most responsible and who own the lion's share of responsibility for what happened are still in the case," said Joseph S. Bavaro of Woodbury, one of Paula Breitkopf's attorneys. "The most important parts of this case are the person who pulled the trigger and the police department who failed to properly train their officers."

Neither the MTA nor the other parties named in the suit could immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Geoffrey Breitkopf, 40, a member of Nassau's Bureau of Special Operations, was killed as he approached the scene near where police had fatally shot the armed DiGeronimo after pursuing him into his parents' home.

A report into Breitkopf's shooting, released in 2012 by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, found no criminality by Gentile or the officers who shot DiGeronimo.

The report found that Gentile "reasonably" believed Breitkopf -- in plainclothes, armed with a police-issued M-4 assault rifle and not displaying his police badge -- posed a threat.

Paula Breitkopf's lawsuit says that her husband was wearing his police badge "hanging on a lanyard."

Her lawyers have argued that MTA police officers at the scene should have taken a backseat to Nassau cops, and that Cafarella -- a retired cop who had no official role -- helped confuse the situation by shouting "gun" as Breitkopf approached the house.

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