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Sheldon Leftenant, arrested in cop shooting, pleads not guilty to grand jury charges, DA says

Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Huntington Station, is led

Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Huntington Station, is led out of the Third Precinct in Bay Shore for arraignment in Central Islip Criminal Court on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk police Officer Mark Collins saw two flashes from a gun and heard four shots while grappling with a fleeing suspect last week, District Attorney Thomas Spota said Friday.

When the plainclothes cop couldn't feel anything on his right side, he knew he was in trouble, Spota said.

Collins and another gang unit officer pulled over a car heading east on Jericho Turnpike for a traffic infraction shortly after midnight on March 12. Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Huntington Station, was in the left rear seat, and he and Collins recognized each other from prior encounters in the neighborhood, Spota said.

Collins ordered Leftenant out of the car, and the suspect immediately ran across Jericho Turnpike. Spota said the officer, giving chase, decided to try stopping the suspect with his Taser.

"He had his Taser in his hand," the district attorney said, relaying events as Collins told investigators. "He never drew his weapon."

At a house on Mercer Court, Spota said Collins caught up to Leftenant, who could not get through a gate at the end of the driveway, and hit him twice in the back with Taser probes. Leftenant fell to the ground, and Collins got on the suspect's back and tried to handcuff him.

But Leftenant turned onto his side and opened fire with a .38-caliber revolver, Spota said.

The wounded Second Precinct officer dragged himself next to a stoop and positioned himself so he was covered by as much of his bulletproof vest as possible. But instead of firing more rounds, Leftenant got the gate open and ran, Spota said.

Spota gave new details of the shooting after Leftenant pleaded not guilty Friday to an indictment charging him with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.

Officers with police dogs tracked Leftenant about a quarter-mile away to a home on East 25th Street, where they found him hiding in a shed and made the arrest.

Collins, 35, was shot in the neck and the hip. Police recovered two bullets from inside the Mercer Court house; Leftenant's revolver was found on a propane tank next door, authorities said.

"We now know his survival was truly a miracle," Spota said. "That's in part because he was in very good shape, and also because God was with him."

Spota said the decorated officer is recovering at home, with damage to his vocal chords and vertebrae in his neck.

Leftenant told detectives "he didn't care about shooting a cop," Spota said. "He just wanted to get away."

The arraignment was moved to a larger courtroom in Riverhead to accommodate about 100 police officers who attended. The crowd included Chief of Department James Burke and Policemen's Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo.

"Mr. Leftenant has a long history of violence in Suffolk County and, more particularly, in Huntington Station," Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said in court. He said Leftenant is a member of gang called the Tip Top Boyz.

Leftenant pleaded guilty in 2012 to fourth-degree criminal facilitation, a misdemeanor, after initially being charged with three counts of second-degree assault. He served a year in jail, records show.

State Supreme Court Justice John Collins, who said he's not related to the officer, ordered Leftenant held without bail.

Leftenant's attorney, Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip, said his family supports him.

As Leftenant's father and sister left the courthouse, his sister shouted, "Free Shel!"

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