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Details Released in Friendly Fire Incident that Took Officer's Life

Details Released in Friendly Fire Incident that Took Officer's Life

The Boston Herald via YellowBrix

March 14, 2011

NASSAU COUNTY, NY – A Nassau County police officer was killed in a friendly-fire shooting outside a Massapequa Park house Saturday night, moments after two other department officers had shot and killed a resident of the home.

Dead are Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf, 40, a 12-year veteran of the force and a member of the Bureau of Special Operations, and Anthony DiGeronimo, 21, of Massapequa Park.

Authorities said Breitkopf, who was in plain clothes and carrying a rifle, was shot in the

front yard by Glenn Gentile, an Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer who was also responding to the scene.

Police had gone to the home, which DiGeronimo apparently shares with his parents, after a 911 call alerted them to a masked man running through the neighborhood. He was shot by two uniformed officers after he lunged at them with knives, police said.

On Sunday morning, a flag at the Nassau County Special Operation’s Bureau was at half-staff. Two officers hung a purple-and-black bunting borrowed from the North Bellmore Fire Department in front of the building, to signal mourning for the loss of Breitkopf.

The slain officer was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m. at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, the county police department’s chief spokesman.

“He died at NUMC,” Smith said. His family was with him."

The shooting of Breitkopf happened between eight and 13 minutes after DiGeronimo was shot in a bedroom in the house, police said.

Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said Breitkopf was walking with a rifle toward the home and was on the lawn when he was shot by an MTA officer who had also responded to the scene. Police said the MTA officer was outside the home but they did not provide an exact location.

The two officers who shot DiGeronimo were from the Seventh Precinct in Seaford, police said.

Mulvey said the department’s homicide squad would investigate the episode, though he all but ruled out criminal charges against the MTA officer. “We would think he determined there was danger afoot and misconstrued the circumstances,” Mulvey said.

He also said the department would review its guidelines for how plain clothes officers identify themselves to their uniformed counterparts.

“These kinds of circumstances cause us to take a step back,” he said.

Police with flashlights were searching the front yard lawn on Fourth Avenue just before 5 a.m. Sunday. Plain clothes and uniform officers were seen going in and out of the house, and just after 7 a.m. a body was removed on a stretcher.

The two Seventh Precinct officers and an MTA officer, who had responded from a nearby Long Island Rail Road station, responded to the initial 911 call, Smith said.

Smith did not elaborate on the role of each officer, adding only that those officers also were taken to NUMC for reasons he did not specify. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano visited the hospital, Smith said.

Hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said the bullet wounded the slain officer in the left and right side of his chest and caused fatal trauma to his heart and lungs.

DiGeronimo had large knives strapped to his body, Smith said.

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