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Cop praised after issuance of minor summons turns into dangerous struggle

Suffolk County officials on Thursday recognized Police Officer Lucas

Suffolk County officials on Thursday recognized Police Officer Lucas McDonald, who they said was injured while arresting — with help from bystanders — a convicted felon who had a handgun. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

A routine patrol at the Babylon Long Island Rail Road station became anything but ordinary Tuesday morning after a Suffolk County police officer, attempting to write a public urination summons, found himself in a life-or-death struggle with a suspect armed with a loaded pistol, authorities said.

First Precinct Officer Lucas McDonald was on patrol at 9:30 a.m. when he noticed Iver Whittingham, 49, of Bellport, urinating on the sidewalk, officials said at a news conference Thursday in Babylon.

"While it seemed like a routine situation at first that would result in the issuance of a minor summons, in reality the situation was far more dangerous," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

McDonald, who has been on the force in Suffolk for three years and previously spent 7 1/2 years with the NYPD, said he requested the man's identification to write a citation but Whittingham walked away while reaching into his fanny pack.

Recognizing the "unusual movement," McDonald said he went to frisk Whittingham and recovered a fully loaded Hi-Point 9 mm pistol wrapped in a plastic bag. Whittingham, who refused to comply with the officer's demands, struggled with McDonald, who tossed the gun under his patrol car, officials said.

"And that's when the struggle ensued," McDonald said, recalling the incident Thursday.

McDonald attempted to deploy his Taser, but it was inoperable. McDonald then attempted to utilize his baton and pepper spray but Whittingham attempted to take possession of the weapons.

That's when McDonald said he yelled to onlookers to call 911 as he wrestled with the suspect, and, with the assistance of two Good Samaritans, eventually put Whittingham in handcuffs.

"The situation that could have ended very differently without the actions of these citizens," said acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron.

McDonald suffered an injury to his right shoulder and was treated and released from a hospital. Whittingham was also treated for minor injuries.

"I am thankful the people of Suffolk County had my back and the Suffolk County Police Department's back," McDonald said. "They really stepped up."`

Whittingham has a criminal record dating to 1993 on Long Island and in New York City, including weapons charges that prohibit him from owning a gun, along with several low-level driving offenses and a disorderly conduct charge.

He is charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree assault, fourth-degree attempted grand larceny and resisting arrest. Whittingham was arraigned Thursday in Central Islip and held on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond. He is due back in court Friday.

Whittingham is represented by the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini said many fatal shootings are often preceded by minor quality-of-life offenses.

"This is not just about taking an illegal firearm off the streets," Sini said. "This is an individual with a criminal history. We don't know what he could have done with that firearm."

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