The crime scene on Fourth Avenue in Massapequa Park where...

The crime scene on Fourth Avenue in Massapequa Park where authorities say a police officer and a suspect were fatally shot. (March 12, 2011) Credit: Nick Stein

Nassau detectives want to again question a retired city cop who was present when a county officer died in a mistaken shooting last weekend.

On Saturday, the retired NYPD sergeant, John Cafarella, 58, was outside the Massapequa Park home of a knife-wielding suspect who had minutes earlier been shot by police.

Nassau police union officials say that Cafarella shouted a warning about a gun as Officer Geoffrey J. Breitkopf approached the Fourth Avenue home. MTA officer Glenn Gentile fired once, killing Breitkopf.

A young man who emerged from Cafarella's house -- a little over a mile from the scene of the shootings -- and identified himself as the officer's son said Wednesday his father was being unfairly blamed.

Breitkopf, a 12-year veteran of the department, was in street clothes and carrying an assault rifle. He was not wearing a police jacket or other insignia; it remains unclear if his badge was displayed.

Minutes before the Breitkopf shooting, Cafarella saw officers chase suspect Anthony DiGeronimo, 21, into the home, union officials said.

Union president James Carver said Cafarella "tried to control the scene" and should not have stayed as officers gathered following the DiGeronimo shooting.

Carver called for the district attorney to consider if criminal charges are appropriate.

Nassau police Det. Lt. John Azzata said interviews continue with more than a dozen potential witnesses, most of them Nassau cops at the scene.

Several have reported, "someone at that scene saying 'gun,' 'he's got a gun,' 'why does he have a gun?' or words to that effect," Azzata said. Cafarella has been "cooperative to an extent" in two interviews and "neither confirms or denies saying those words."

Azzata said the case will be turned over to the Nassau district attorney's office, which will determine if criminal charges are warranted.

"As of now, there is no indication of any criminality of any particular person," he said.

Cafarella's son defended his father's actions.

"The media's been putting the blame game on my father, it's not right," said the son. "Did my dad shoot the cop? No."

"The undercover came on the scene, my dad said 'Gun,' the MTA officer shot. He didn't say 'freeze' or nothing," said the son. He declined to give his name. When asked directly if his father shouted about a gun, he replied, "I don't know. I wasn't there."

MTA officials said they are cooperating with investigators.

Robert Mladinich, spokesman for the NYPD's Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the union "is terribly saddened by these events and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Breitkopf family."

Breitkopf, a married father of two sons, worked with the elite Bureau of Special Operations, which focuses on high-risk situations and undercover work.

With Tania Lopez

and Matthew Chayes

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