Suffolk County Police Officer Fadi Rafeh, an investigator in the Fifth Precinct who also served as an Arabic translator, died Sunday, police officials said. He was 38.
Rafeh’s cause of death was undetermined on Tuesday. Officials said his death, off duty, was unexpected.
“It is never easy to lose a member of the department," Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a news release. "Officer Rafeh’s death is especially difficult because he had so much to offer to the men and women he served with and was making a difference in the lives of Suffolk County residents . . . Officer Rafeh will be remembered for his dedication to the SCPD. Our thoughts are with his wife, two boys and his family and friends.”
Rafeh, a 1999 graduate of Longwood High School, was sworn in to the police academy in June 2010. He was in the Fifth Precinct throughout his career, first as a patrol officer assigned to Patchogue and Bellport. He became an investigator in the precinct’s Crime Section in October 2017, a police release said.
Rafeh was a kicker, linebacker and fullback for the 1998 Longwood High School championship football team, according to former coach Joe Cipp III.
"He was our do-it-all utility guy because he was so tough and had a lot of speed," Cipp said Tuesday.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Rafeh was also one of the department’s two Arabic translators.
Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said Rafeh’s background “exemplified the diversity that makes our department great.”
Lt. Michael Alfano, commanding officer of the Fifth Precinct's Crime Section, said Rafeh was about to be recommended for promotion to detective. crime sections handle misdemeanor cases; detective squads investigate felonies.
“Right away, he began picking up cases and investigating them and just did a great job, from Day One,” Alfano said in an interview. “He was a natural leader back here . . . he was always willing to help out in any way that he could.”
Rafeh was “someone you could always rely on to get the job done,” Alfano said. "He would pick up a case and he would just conduct the investigation in a very professional manner.”
Fifth Precinct Officer Joseph Esposito grew up with Rafeh, first as teenagers and then as fellow police officers. “He was the big brother I never had,” said Esposito, the oldest of three sons.
Esposito began his law enforcement career with the NYPD about a decade ago and transferred to Suffolk police roughly a year ago at Rafeh’s urging.
“Anything that guy would tell me, I would do,” he said.
Officer Dan Hogan, Rafeh's partner in the crime section, has known him since their high school days.
“His passing is just completely a shock to everybody,” Hogan said in an interview. “Seeing his desk and his locker — it’s shocking, it’s devastating. We probably haven’t even fully grasped it yet, as a precinct. I don’t even have the right words.”
They became partners about a month ago, after working as teammates in the section. They worked as plainclothes investigators, handling casework and street crime.
“We went through the process together, we talked about partnering up for the longest time and it finally happened to work out,” Hogan said. “He was a very ambitious cop. He liked the action, the activity, of looking for bad guys.”
Hogan and Alfano described Rafeh as a mentor to younger officers and said he would organize trips to baseball and football games.
“He was big into building camaraderie within the precinct,” Hogan said.
A group outing to a football game in North Carolina in November was postponed when Rafeh couldn’t make the original date. “We changed our plans because he is the type of guy that can walk into a room and just bring the energy,” Officer Patrick Ryan said in the release. “He was a great guy all around. I have only known him here, but I already feel like he was a little brother to me — he was just a very intelligent guy.”
Rafeh is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and sons Nicholas, 5, and Benjamin, 3.
County Executive Steve Bellone offered his condolences to the family in a statement Tuesday.
"Officer Rafeh was a role model to younger officers who were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and serve beside him in the Police Department," he said. "He loved his job, he loved his family, and we are deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss."
Services had not been determined as of Tuesday evening.
— With Gregg Sarra