Man accused of shooting Long Island police officer pleads not guilty to attempted murder

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Kemberly Richardson has the story. (WABC)

An alleged gang member accused of shooting a Suffolk County police officer pleaded not guilty Friday to aggravated attempted murder and other indictment charges.

Sheldon Leftenant, 22, of Shirley, appeared in a Riverhead courtroom packed with police officers.

Sheldon Leftenant

District Attorney Thomas Spota said after the arraignment that Leftenant was hit with a stun gun twice before shooting the officer, who was struggling to handcuff him on March 12.

A union official says the officer, Mark Collins, still has limited mobility and may need vocal cord surgery.

Defense attorney Ian Fitzgerald says Leftenant insists that he is not guilty but also is "sorry he is in this situation." He is being held without bail.

Police said Leftenant admitted to the shooting. They said he was a well-known gang member, and that he is well-known to Suffolk County police, including Collins.

"The defendant did make oral admissions to detectives," Spota said. "'I didn't want to get caught with the gun on me, so I did what I had to do. So I ran.'"

Collins left Stony Brook Medical Center three days after being shot in the hip and neck.

"The bullet itself came within an inch of vital structures in his neck," Dr. James Vosswinkl said. "He didn't require surgery, which is remarkable, but with that said, he was in a medically-induced coma at one point, he was in our ICU and on life support."

Collins was shot just before midnight on Mercer Court near Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station, according to a police spokesman.

During a plainclothes traffic stop, he and two other gang officers in an unmarked police cruiser pulled a vehicle over for a traffic violation. During the stop, one of the four people in the vehicle jumped out and ran away on foot.

Collins chased him to nearby Mercer Court, where there was a confrontation. Collins was shot twice in the neck and hip, and rushed by helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital.

He was in a medically induced coma for part of the week.

"I don't know, I want to use the word miracle, but probably it really applies here," Suffolk County Police Chief John Meehan said. "Mark is a true hero, he really is. He was by himself in the life and death struggle, and he came out outstanding. He didn't do anything tactically wrong, but that doesn't mean things don't go wrong."

Suffolk Police Commissioner Edward Webber also called Collins a hero.

"We are thankful that his injuries, although serious, are not worse," he said. "Although we train and prepare for these types of incidents, there is always alarm to receive a call like this in the middle of the night."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said that fortunately, angels were on Collins' side.

"He and his family are in our prayers," he said. "We are grateful that the officer has a good prognosis. We saw tonight again an example in the starkest terms of the dangers the members of the Suffolk County police face every day, every night."

This is the second time in just six months that this exact scene has played out. Detective Nicholas Guerrero was there to congratulate his fellow officer. Guerrero was also nearly killed back in September. Suspects on the run in a stolen car plowed into him and his partner.

Collins, who is married, was honored in 2008 after he ran into a burning building and saved a disabled man.

(Some information from the Associated Press)
Related Topics:
officer-involved shootingpolice shootinglong island newsHuntington Station
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