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Hempstead chief tells village board more officers are on patrol after three fatal shootings

Victor Benitez, seen here in an undated photo,

Victor Benitez, seen here in an undated photo, was fatally shot outside the Clinton Deli and Grocery on Clinton Street, near Wellington Street, in the Village of Hempstead early in the morning on Saturday, July 4, 2015, police said. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan told village board members Tuesday night he has put more officers on the street to track down whoever shot and killed three men in a span of four days last week.

McGowan assured board members and about 20 residents at the meeting that investigators "have a lot of good leads on these cases. We're committed to our efforts to bring the people to justice who committed their heinous crimes and protect the community."

McGowan told board members his detectives are working with Nassau police, who lead all homicide investigations. The additional patrols are being funded by gun eradication grants and overtime, McGowan said.

The killings followed the stabbing death of a Hempstead woman in June that police said was a domestic violence case.

They also occurred as village police have pumped up efforts at stemming gun violence.

Gun eradication teams have recovered 27 weapons this year, police said, and crime has dropped to a two-year low with the addition of the ShotSpotter gunshot recognition alert system and targeted patrols.

Village officials have added 2,700 LED lights for $1.3 million to better identify shooting suspects. The lighting is coupled with 70 high-definition security cameras that will be programmed with the ShotSpotter system later this year.

Authorities said the four homicides -- the first ones in 2015 -- are unrelated. There were four homicides in the same period last year, police said, and eight for all of 2014. There were 12 homicides in Hempstead in 2013, village police said.

"We went eight and a half months without a shooting homicide, and then suddenly we had this rash," Assistant Chief Joseph Sortino said before the meeting. "They are all not related and most were probably unpreventable."

Resident Caprice Rines told the board she was "sick of the violence. I'm concerned people are afraid of our village."

The spate of killings started June 30 when Jonathan Wade, 55, was shot while driving on Albermarle Avenue, police said. He then crashed into a middle school's ballfield bleachers, injuring three people.

Wade had been arrested on the street the night before and released the next day, charged with pointing a shotgun at a home out of his SUV window, police said.

The next homicide occurred Friday night when Gerraud Hill, 30, of Malverne was shot shortly before 11 p.m. and then drove his SUV about a half-mile before striking a parked car and a house.

Less than six hours later, Victor Benitez, 28, was shot and killed at 4:40 a.m. Saturday, police said. A gunman walked up and opened fire as Benitez stood outside a market at the corner of Clinton and Wellington streets, police said. Nassau police said they are seeking the public's help finding Benitez's killer.

On Tuesday, police published a flier offering as much as a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

With Candice Ruud

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