Officers who caught alleged drive-by shooters honored at police awards dinner

01/27/2014 7:00 AM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Officer Dennis Cavanagh (left) and Michael Lombardo (right) stand with Captain Richard Smith after winning the Riverhead police department's Officer of the Year awards.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Police Captain Richard Smith, center, with officers Dennis Cavanagh, left, and Michael Lombardo at Friday’s Southampton Kiwanis Police Awards Ceremony.

Riverhead Town police officers Dennis Cavanagh and Michael Lombardo were honored Friday as the department’s Officers of the Year for their quick actions in apprehending four drive-by shooting suspects.

Mr. Cavanagh and Mr. Lombardo arrested the group that allegedly fired seven rounds into a downtown Riverhead home on Third Street last February. They were were following up a ambulance call near the Riverhead firehouse at around 8:50 p.m. when they heard what seemed to be rapid gunfire and saw a small, tan car heading south.

After the two officers spotted the car fleeing from the shooting, they pulled over the vehicle and arrested the occupants within minutes of the incident.

The pair pulled over the vehicle using a “felony stop” designed to handle traffic stops when the driver or a passenger may be considered dangerous. One of the men in the car had already reloaded his gun.

“For these actions and these officers’ continued efforts, I’d like to introduce officers Dennis Cavanagh and Michael Lombardo,” Captain Richard Smith said as applause erupted during the annual Southampton Kiwanis Police Awards Ceremony.

Three of the suspects caught in the vehicle have pleaded guilty in county court. The alleged shooter has pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Cavanagh, a 27-year veteran of the force, also recently earned the Riverhead Police Benevolent Association President’s Award and was named Riverhead News-Review’s Public Servant of the Year.

Other local honorees from Friday’s event include:

• Southold Town police officers Richard Jernick Jr. and Rory Flatley for or saving an alleged drunk driver who nearly died after crashing his car into a utility pole last fall.

• Shelter Island Police Officer Anthony Rando for helping to save a woman’s life.

• Trooper Charles Witczak was chosen from the state police ranks, while Sgt. John Whitehead Jr. was recognized for providing vocational training to inmates and organizing work projects like one at the Brendan House on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

• Out of all the East End winners, the Kiwanis board named Dep. Sheriff Richard Tedesco as this year’s winner of the Howard Stock Memorial Award for helping to bring down several high profile marijuana grow houses across the area.

psquire@timesreview.com