01/31/13 9:31pm
01/31/2013 9:31 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during Thursday night's vigil for Demitri Hampton in Riverhead.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during Thursday night’s vigil for Demitri Hampton in Riverhead.

Riverhead school superintendent Nancy Carney’s voice shook with emotion as she spoke about the Riverhead High School graduate killed in a Flanders home invasion earlier this week.

“There was so much in front of Demitri, but he also has left us with so much,” she said to the group of mourners.

Hundreds of friends and family gathered on a windy Thursday evening to remember 21-year-old Demitri Hampton at a candlelight vigil held in front of Riverhead High School.

Mr. Hampton was shot and killed after two armed masked men burst into his cousin’s house early Sunday night, police said. Suffolk County detectives are still investigating the crime.

Ms. Carney told the crowd to learn from Mr. Hampton’s example and “cherish each and every day.” She urged those gathered to work to stop violent crimes in town to prevent a tragedy like this from occurring again.

“We have to join together to stop violence in this community,” Ms. Carney pleaded. “This tragedy has affected everybody in not only the school community but the entire Riverhead community. This has to stop. We can’t allow this here.”

The crowd of friends and former classmates bowed their heads in a moment of silence for Mr. Hampton during the vigil.

Others spoke about Mr. Hampton, and how he affected their lives. Riverhead High School principal David Wicks said it was Mr. Hampton’s sense of humor that stood out.

“I will always remember Demitri for his smile, for his ability to make me laugh,” he said. “I’m having a smile about him right now just thinking about him.”

Elder Albert Brown of the Galilee Church of God in Christ in Riverhead said a prayer at the ceremony.

“We do thank God for the life of Demitrius Hampton, the love, the friendship, the joy and the laughter that he brought to those who knew and loved him,” Elder Brown said. “Certainly our lives were enriched by his life.”

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01/31/13 3:00pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Demitri Hampton's sister Jennifer Davis (left), brother Jamal Davis and first cousin Latisha Diego with photos of Demitri, who appeared on the cover of a Suffolk Community College campus magazine in 2012, during a meeting with reporters in Polish Town Tuesday.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Demitri Hampton’s sister Jennifer Davis (left), brother Jamal Davis and first cousin Latisha Diego with photos of Demitri, who appeared on the cover of a Suffolk Community College campus magazine in 2012, during a meeting with reporters in Polish Town Tuesday.

Latisha Diego said the masked men who burst into her home on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders never demanded her money or possessions. At one point, they pointed a gun at her in her bedroom and ordered her not to move. Most of her family was asleep when the men broke in. But her younger cousin, Demitri Hampton, was awake playing video games, she said.

When Demitri confronted the intruders, they shot him.

“The next thing I know he’s running in and he’s telling me to call the police,” she said. “And he’s shot and he’s bleeding.”

Ms. Diego says the men could have taken anything they wanted in the house. Instead, they took her cousin.

“The only thing they took out of the house that night was his life, and that was the most valuable thing in there,” Ms. Diego said, holding back tears.

Friends and family are in mourning after the killing of 21-year-old Demitri Hampton, a Riverhead High School graduate and outgoing college student gunned down in a home invasion early Sunday.

RELATED: Candlelight vigil scheduled for Thursday night

RELATED: Demitri Hampton was the best type of person

The break-in occurred about 3 a.m. when two armed masked men broke through the front door of Ms. Diego’s house, family members said. A struggle ensued near the kitchen after Mr. Hampton confronted the intruders.

“There was a struggle and he was shot during the struggle,” said Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Suffolk County Homicide Squad.

The men quickly fled the scene. Mr. Hampton had been shot in the chest and was rushed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Detectives said they are investigating the killing and have made no arrests in the case. Police have asked anyone with information on the crime to call 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential, police said.

Family members said Mr. Hampton was a “good, good kid,” a jokester who always tried to get a laugh and cheer others up.

COURTESY PHOTO  |  Juanita Trent with Demitri Hampton this past Mother's Day.

COURTESY PHOTO | Juanita Trent with Demitri Hampton this past Mother’s Day.

Just before the attack, Ms. Diego, Mr. Hampton and his girlfriend, Frances Acevedo, had spent Saturday afternoon and evening watching movies together on Ms. Diego’s bed, quoting lines from a comedy flick while joking and talking about their futures.

They talked about the lottery and what they’d do with the millions of dollars if they won. Mr. Hampton had a list of people he’d give money to if he won the lottery to help them “make it.”

“We had a lot of good times,” Ms. Diego said. “A lot of good times.”

Mr. Hampton was the “baby” of the family, the youngest of his siblings and cousins for quite some time. Ms. Diego said he was a determined young man whose family was always there to help.

Mr. Hampton was there for them, too, she said. He’d make jokes and dance around to cheer them up or offer words of encouragement when they needed comfort.

“He’d always say ‘It’s gonna be OK. I know you’re going to do it,’” Ms. Diego said.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday, family members recalled how much he loved lima beans — he would eat the home-cooked beans for a week straight — and how he adored his 1992 Lincoln Town Car, which he dubbed Felicia.

The windows didn’t work on the car, the grill was missing and the key was stuck in the ignition, they said. But that didn’t stop Mr. Hampton and his closest friend Jason Sims from spray painting the rims to “touch up” the car, Ms. Diego said. He would often crack that if he ever made it rich, Felicia was coming with him.

It’s that sense of humor that friends and family said they’ll miss the most.

“Demitri was the kind of person who would make you laugh when you were in a bad mood,” said his friend Edwin Perry. “He always joked around and had something funny to say. I never really saw him a bad mood.”

At his former high school, classmates and teachers were stunned by the news of his death.

“He was only three years out,” said Riverhead High School principal David Wicks. “I’m still in shock.”

The high school will host a candlelight vigil for Mr. Hampton, a 2010 graduate, at 6 p.m. Thursday. The vigil is open to all and mourners are asked to bring candles to light.

Suffolk County Community College, where Mr. Hampton was studying criminal justice, will also hold a memorial for him at 11 a.m. next Monday morning, Feb. 3.

This spring was supposed to be Mr. Hampton’s last semester at Suffolk County Community College, Ms. Acevedo said. He was thinking of joining the Air Force or applying to Mercy College to further his education.

Now, his family is left to ponder what could have been for a life that long held so much promise.

“I won’t ever get to see him get married someday,” said his sister, Jennifer Davis, tears streaming down her face. “It was senseless to take his life … They took his future from him, and that’s not fair.”

A wake and funeral services for Mr. Hampton will be held Saturday morning, according to Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton.

The services will be held at Galiee First Church of God in Christ, 87 Old Quogue Road, in Riverhead. The wake is set for 10 a.m., with a funeral mass at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Southampton Cemetery. His family plans to establish a scholarship in his name.

Mr. Hampton, who always had a positive attitude, wouldn’t want others to be upset, one of his cousins said.

“Demitri always said that he wanted [us] to have a party [if he died],” said Neko Gettling. “ ‘I don’t want nobody crying, I don’t want none of that. I want to have a party.’ ”

But for a close-knit family that lost a brother, a cousin and a son — and now a hero who fought to protect his family — that wish is hard to grant.

“Demitri, that was our baby,” Ms. Davis said, sobbing. “I didn’t have him, but that was my baby, that was my baby.”

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01/31/13 2:59pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Demitri Hampton appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012. He would have graduated this spring.

The extended family had already suffered a big blow two years ago, when grandma died. She was the rock who for so long seemed to hold everything together. But during those trying times of late 2011, as the first holidays without her approached and a long winter set in, everyone had Demitri to lift their spirits

Never too far away, the then-teenager could make for a moment of levity during any time of despair, and by any means necessary. That meant he wasn’t above donning a wig or a skirt, or randomly spraying himself with air freshener. He was also prone to rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. With Demitri around, you couldn’t help but smile and forget whatever pain you might feel.

“I don’t think I would have been able to get through Grandma’s passing without Demitri,” said one of his cousin’s, Fawn Gettling.

“He always lived on a positive note” and was never in a bad mood, explained another cousin, Latisha Diego.

That’s the cruel irony behind Demitri Hampton’s death during a home invasion early Sunday in Flanders. His personality and positive outlook is exactly what his family and the rest of his loved ones need most right now.

And they are at an utter loss to imagine how, exactly, they will manage without him.

Demitri had the misfortune of being awake and playing video games when two armed men broke through the front door of the Priscilla Avenue house at 3 a.m. Determined to protect his sleeping girlfriend and family, he had fought with the intruders before he was shot in his chest and later died at Peconic Bay Medical Center. No one else was hurt before the suspects fled.

“He will forever be a hero,” said his sister, Jennifer Davis. “There won’t ever be a time when I won’t miss my little brother.”

For Ms. Gettling, she believes her loss is the gain of her grandfather, who died in 2004, and grandmother.

“The thing that I keep saying to my brother, and I keep in my brain, is that he was always doing whatever he could to keep my grandma laughing,” she said. “I believe that he’s in heaven making my grandma and my grandfather laugh hysterically, so they’re up there cracking up.

“So that helps a little bit.”

Demitri was hardly a do-nothing prankster though; he had big dreams and he was working toward achieving them.

Whether it was going to be through acting, modeling, comedy, a college degree or the Air Force, the charismatic young man had been intent on becoming “somebody,” as his relatives said. Just the type of person who usually makes it in this world.

But he wanted to help others just as much as he wanted to help himself, performing small, heroic acts long before his death.

“He was very encouraging,” said Ms. Diego, recalling the hours before his death, as the two shared some of their hopes and plans for the future as they watched movies on her king-sized bed. “He was saying, ‘It’s gonna be OK. It’s gonna be OK. I know you’re going to do it.’ ”

“He had that ‘no man left behind’ type of mentality,” added his cousin Neko Gettling. “He believed that if he could make it, everybody else could too.”

That showed through his extracurricular activities at Riverhead High School and the middle school, where he volunteered for seven years with the Council for Unity anti-gang group. Then, at Suffolk County Community College, he served as a mentor and role model through the Black Male Network, a newly founded student club devoted to encouraging high school students to go to college.

Basically, his family and friends explained, he had a simple message to high school kids: “I’m going to college; and so can you.”

That’s the other irony in Demitri Hampton’s tragic death. What’s almost certain is that these killers — whose race or ethnicity is unknown — were at some point the type of at-risk youths Demitri had always sought to help through his volunteer work. Had they all met in another time and place, Demitri might have taken them under his wing to get them on the right track.

In killing him, they not only brought unspeakable grief upon his friends and family, but theirs as well, as they will surely be caught and wind up spending decades in prison. During that time, they’ll get to reflect not only Demitri and his shortened life, but the lives of all those other souls he never got the chance to help.

Michael White

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, ext. 152 or [email protected].

01/31/13 12:30pm
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Firefighters were called to extract a woman from a Doctors Path crash Thursday morning. A volunteer was able to free the victim without tools.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Firefighters were called to extract a woman from a Doctors Path crash Thursday morning. A volunteer was able to free the victim without tools.

Two elderly women were hospitalized after running a stop sign on Doctors Path and crashing into a rental truck Thursday morning, police said.

The driver of the Chevy Malibu was headed east on Doctors Path when she went through the stop sign at the intersection of the road and Northville Turnpike about 10:30 a.m., authorities said.

A rental truck traveling south on Northville Turnpike collided with the car as it crossed the road, crumpling the driver side door of the Malibu, police said.

Riverhead firefighters were called to the scene when emergency officials couldn’t pull open the driver’s door to get the victim out. Heavy Rescue crews arrived on the scene, but a firefighter was able to open the door without needing extraction tools, fire officials said.

The women inside the vehicle did not appear to suffer serious injuries, but were taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment, police said. The driver of the rental truck was not hurt in the crash, police said.

A police officer at the scene said no tickets or fines were issued.

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01/31/13 9:50am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suffolk County has identified this Pulaski Street site as a brownfield in need of rehabilitation

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suffolk County has identified this Pulaski Street site as a brownfield in need of rehabilitation

The Riverhead Town Board discussed Suffolk County’s proposed land bank program at the board’s Thursday work session.

The land bank allows the county to rehab abandoned and possibly polluted properties and then resell them.

The county needs support of the 10 Suffolk towns to create the land bank, which is reportedly made possible through state legislation passed in 2011 allowing for the creation of 10 land banks across New York State.

Supervisor Sean Walter said an empty lot, which used to house a gas station across from Pulaski Street School, is one property on the county’s brownfields list he would like to see rehabbed and sold off.

The board also discussed proposed rules of procedure at Town Board meetings, which includes a plan to cap public comments to five minutes for one individual.

There was also a discussion to amend former congressman George Hochbrueckner’s contract with the town to add lobbying to try to get the FAA to locate at EPCAL. He would get paid another $1,000.

Board members also discussed the Concordia assisted living complex long planned for property behind Home Depot off Mill Road.

The meeting started at 10 a.m., following a 9:30 a.m. executive session.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon blogged live from the meeting. Click below to follow and comment.

Riverhead Town Board work session agenda 01-31-2013 by

01/31/13 9:00am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO  |  A LIPA crew was working on a power line knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A LIPA crew was working on a power line on North Wading River Road knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

A few hundred residents in and around the Riverhead area were without power this morning after heavy winds came whipping across the North Fork overnight into today. A Long Island Power Authority outage map showed 88 customers affected along Sound Shore Road in Northville.

Another 49 residents were without power near Deep Hole Road in Calverton.

LIPA expects to have power restored to those affected by late morning, according to the map.

The National Weather Service issued another severe weather warning at 7:58 a.m. for a “squall line moving across Eastern Long Island.”

There were more than 34,000 outages total across Long Island as of 8:33 a.m., according to LIPA.

While scattered showers are expected to pass the area by around 10 a.m., the wind will likely remain throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts could reach 49 mph and wind will be sustained around 24-28 mph.