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Emotions run high at Brentwood forum on violence

Some 500 Brentwood and Central Islip residents vented their fears and frustrations in an emotionally charged public forum last night, demanding answers from elected officials who they say have allowed criminal gangs to run rampant in their streets.

Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), saying vast resources are needed to stanch the violence that has led to six fatal attacks in Brentwood and at least that many in Central Islip since early last year, told the crowd that he and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have written a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III asking the bureau to investigate gang activity and organized crime in the two communities.

That announcement, on the heels of a 10-point plan launched Tuesday by the Suffolk County Police Department, did not satisfy the homeowners, parents, Boy Scout leaders and coaches who filled a Brentwood Public Library meeting room to capacity and spilled into two other rooms.

"I've been crying for help," said Clara Fiallo, 40, of Brentwood, whose son, David Sandler, 20, was shot dead two weeks ago while walking to a grocery store.

Facing a solemn row of town, county, state and school district officials, she trembled as she shouted: "I need answers! I need for you to do your job and get the person who killed my son. Our streets are out of control!"

The meeting, hosted and moderated by Suffolk Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood), was intended to give the public, not politicians, a chance to speak, but a few officials responded to points raised by the audience.

Responding to a parade of critics blasting the county for not providing enough police officers, the county legislature's presiding officer, William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), took the microphone and faulted County Executive Steve Levy for not hiring all 200 officers the legislature had funded.

Members of the audience shouted: "Where is Levy? Why isn't he here?"

"I don't know," Lindsay said.

Montano said after the meeting that an invitation was delivered to Levy's office Monday afternoon. Asked for comment, Levy spokesman Dan Aug said the county executive had not been invited.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, who attended with several other top police officials, earlier pledged that the department's increased efforts would continue until the crime wave is halted. "We're taking this very seriously," he said.

Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan, who took the floor amid murmurs and boos, described the increased security measures the town has taken at town-run Timberline Park, where Wilson Batista Jr., 13, was shot in the eye last June while playing basketball.

As Nolan spoke of repaired fences and new surveillance cameras, Batista's father, Wilson Batista Sr., shouted incredulously from the back of the room: "Now? Now?"

"I pay $20,000 in taxes a year," he said. "For what?"

Nolan, taken aback, responded: "I couldn't be more sorry for you."

Then, his voice rising, the supervisor said, "We're going to hold the line against this crap. We're going to stand together!"

The audience applauded.


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