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A press conference about mass shootings hits home

A Stop & Shop in West Hempstead was

A Stop & Shop in West Hempstead was the scene of a shooting on Tuesday. Credit: Kevin Coughlin

Daily Point

Bellone has presser about supermarket shootings as one unfolds in Nassau

Minutes before Steve Bellone’s second press conference of the morning on Tuesday, the subject matter got very real for the Suffolk County executive.

Notices had been sent a day earlier about a 10:30 a.m. Zoom call from his Hauppauge office with other suburban county executives on the need for Congress to restore the SALT deduction, to be followed by an 11:30 press event at Suffolk police headquarters. That second event included commissioner Geraldine Hart, and was scheduled to announce the expansion of a program which connects closed-circuit cameras directly with police headquarters. The program is in place at Suffolk schools, but Bellone wanted to make the case that the increasing number of recent shootings at supermarkets and big box stores creates an immediate need for police to have real time access to the internal camera systems in these establishments, too.

As Bellone walked into Yaphank headquarters a few minutes before the 11:30 event he saw Police Chief Stuart Cameron, who told him something was happening in West Hempstead — Shot Spotter technology had picked up gunfire in or around a supermarket. "We don’t have a lot of details," Bellone recalled Cameron saying.

Bellone and Hart decided to go ahead with the scheduled event as reports on social media started to detail what was unfolding in Nassau County. Video from the event shows Bellone standing behind Hart, as Bellone spokesman Derek Poppe, off camera, pulls him aside to tell him that the shooting was confirmed and there were three victims. "I could just see it on his face that it was bad news," said Bellone.

"It was surreal," he told The Point. "I always feared that one of these mass shootings would happen here and then it unfolds the exact moment we have a press conference."

In the video, Bellone then returns to the podium and delivers a more emotional plea for gun legislation to end the carnage. "We are talking about a shooting happening right now in our backyards, not across the country … This is in our backyards."

See the video clip here.

—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli

Talking Point

Attorney Austin C. Smith goes from The Onion headline writer to CD1 candidate

There’s a new candidate in CD1, the potentially open congressional seat if Lee Zeldin chooses to run for governor: attorney Austin C. Smith.

Smith filed a statement of candidacy for the eastern Long Island seat with the Federal Election Commission in March and has a website featuring a blue map of the North and South forks. His background, however, is a lot more purple. Originally from Chicago, he moved to New York to write for the satirical website The Onion, including political headlines such as "Bush Frustrated By Mother's Constant Questioning Of His Plans Post-White House" in 2008, and the 2009 hit "Liberals Horrified By Lack Of Inexperience Among Obama Appointees."

The 38-year-old self-described "recovering Republican" said he also worked in fundraising for late Arizona Sen. John McCain, but in the Trump era moved to the other side, including volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s campaign as an election lawyer in 2016.

Smith said he was "irate" about Zeldin’s objections to certification of the Electoral College vote, and cites that and other issues like judicial reform that are driving his interest in running.

His history in the district is limited: He said he has lived in New York on and off for more than a decade, and was leasing a place in East Hampton for a period during COVID-19. He’s now back in Manhattan but planning to resume CD1 residency shortly. Inactive voter registration records in Manhattan listed him as a Republican. Told about those records by The Point on Tuesday, Smith, who said he’d thought he’d already switched his enrollment to the Democratic Party, went online to do so.

The Constitution only mandates that members of Congress be residents of the state in which their district is located when elected, but Smith acknowledged he’d likely have to fend off carpetbagger critiques — particularly in a district that includes the Hamptons and over the last two decades has seen multiple relatively wealthy newcomers try their shot.

To that point, Smith, who once worked on a political race in Maine, pointed to a story he attributed to Angus King, independent mainstay of that state. King was born in Virginia and apparently would sidestep the carpetbagger question by explaining he wished he’d been born in Maine, but his mother happened to be elsewhere at the time and he thought it was really important for him to be with her then.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Danger at home

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Excuse me, are you (related to) Aaron Burr, sir?

The Commack Home Depot parking lot has a Hamilton connection.

A small 19th-century cemetery preserved in the middle of the concrete is the resting place of various Burrs — distant relations of the famous Aaron, according to Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes.

The former vice president who shot Alexander Hamilton was from the Connecticut branch of Burrs, Hughes said, while the ones in Commack were from the Long Island branch. But Burr himself did legal work for Huntington as well.

The property around the cemetery went through a number of changes over the years, from farmland to a WWI-era military airfield to farmland to shopping center.

This history — and the general strangeness of a cemetery in a strip mall — got The Point’s attention, and you can check out a video about the site here.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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