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15 Nassau cops receive honors for roles in high-profile cases

From left, police officers Peter Duvenhorst, Jason Dennington,

From left, police officers Peter Duvenhorst, Jason Dennington, Luis Ascencio and James Schuerlein are honored in Mineola on Jan. 19, 2016 for saving lives in a West Hempstead fire. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

They arrested the suspected killer of a 12-year-old girl, saved a family from a burning building and caught an attempted kidnapper.

Those were the actions of 15 Nassau police officers recognized Tuesday by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, acting police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and top police officials. The officers were presented with citations for their actions.

“Here today we pause to recognize some of these officers who exhibited outstanding police work,” Mangano said in the ceremonial chambers at the county office building in Mineola. “I just want to thank these officers and these detectives for their hard work.”

Det. Capt. John Azzata, commanding officer of the police department’s homicide squad, Det. Sgt. James Skopek, Det. Robert Pescitelli and Third Squad Det. Brian Gubelli received citations for their work in solving the October murder of Dejah Joyner, the 12-year-old Hempstead girl fatally shot when a bullet crashed through her home’s front window.

Homicide detectives arrested Jakwan Keller, 20, of Hempstead, on Jan. 10 in Dejah’s killing and charged him with second-degree murder, criminal use of a firearm in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. A grand jury has indicted Keller on at least one felony count, which has not been made public. Keller has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Bruce Barket of Garden City, has said his client “had absolutely nothing to do with the death of this young girl.”

Asked how confident he was that he got the right guy, Pescitelli, the lead investigator on the case, said Tuesday: “I’m 100 percent confident.”

Pescitelli, who has been a cop for 34 years, credited his fellow detectives for working the case hard.

“I had a tremendous amount of guys working with me, that assisted me,” said Pescitelli. “There were about 10 other guys that assisted with me. When you have a lot of guys, who put a lot of working hours, the results come in. I didn’t do it by myself. I had a good group of detectives, experienced detectives with me. And we brought in the bad guy.”

Another six officers — Sgt. Joseph Choo, Det. Anthony Draghi, Det. Mike Kamperveen and officers Thomas Laffin, James DiSanti and Danielle Mayrose from the department’s Fourth Precinct — were honored for their hands in the arrest of a man charged with attempted abduction of a toddler in Woodmere.

Craig Myczkowski, 44, told a 65-year-old baby-sitter, who was carrying a 20-month-old child, that she was “pushing a dead baby” and followed them into the child’s home in Woodmere on Jan. 11 before stealing the empty stroller, police said. Police found Myczkowski lying nude on a psychotherapist’s couch in Hewlett, police said.

Myczkowski was charged with attempted unlawful imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child, burglary and petty larceny, police said.

DiSanti, who put the handcuffs on Myczkowski, said when he first encountered the naked man, “he was saying that he had the right to be in there, he had the key.”

DiSanti, a 22-year-veteran police officer, said arresting a nude man on a therapist’s couch, “probably tops the list” of the strangest things he’s dealt with while on the job.

But he said it was satisfying to collar the suspect. “It feels really good that we were able to help out,” he said.

Five officers who helped save a family, including two young children, from a West Hempstead fire also received citations. The officers were James Schuerlein, Luis Ascencio, Evan Marro, Jason Dennington and Peter Duvenhorst.

“They make our county safe, they make us proud to live in such a wonderful county that is patrolled by officers that care, officers that train hard, and do their job to the best of their ability to keep our residents safe,” Mangano told the assembled crowd, which included family members of the honored officers. “This room is full of officers and detectives that are determined to apprehend those who commit crime against our citizens and most importantly, we don’t read about, the amount of times they thwart and prevent.”

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