Investigators say they see no apparent criminal connections between three recent shootings in downtown Riverhead and Flanders, and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is assuring residents the authorities are doing something to stem the recent tide of violence.
“The message I want to let people know is, you’re safe downtown,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview this week, speaking specifically about two recent shootings downtown. “Use caution, but the police are out there in full force. We are doing things you see and things that you don’t see.”
He declined to comment on details of the investigations, saying only he has “better than full faith in our [Riverhead] police department.”
Meanwhile, police officials from different departments are continuing to investigate the three shootings that have taken place in the greater Riverhead area over the last five weeks, including the fatal shooting of college student Demitri Hampton during a home invasion in Flanders.
“I cannot say they are connected,” Riverhead police Detective Sergeant Joseph Loggia said of the incidents, which happened in different police jurisdictions.
Police officials have not made any public comments as to the potential reasons behind any of the shootings.
Mr. Hampton, a 2010 Riverhead High School graduate, was shot and killed after two masked men broke into his cousin’s Priscilla Avenue home in Flanders about 3 a.m. on Jan. 27. Mr. Hampton fought with the intruders and was shot in his chest.
No arrests have been made and Suffolk County homicide detectives are still investigating.
Not long after, seven bullets pierced the front of a downtown Riverhead home during a drive-by shooting Feb. 13 on Third Street. The home was full of adults and young children.
Police made quick work of the incident, when officers on patrol near the area heard “rapid gunfire coming from” and responded to the scene. Police tailed a vehicle leaving the area and stopped the car on nearby Peconic Avenue, where officers recovered a loaded gun and spent shell casings later found to match bullets that were shot into the home, police said.
Police arrested three teenagers and a 21-year-old from Centereach all believed to be involved in the shooting. They were indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury this week.
Detectives are still investigating whether the intruders picked the house for a random burglary or if someone who had lived there or was believed to be in the house at the time was a target.
Then, on Tuesday night, another downtown Riverhead home was shot up and broken into by two masked men who fled on foot, police said. The shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m. on East Avenue, where two adults and three children ages 5, 12 and 15 were inside, police said.
In that case, police believe the home was targeted, “for what reason, I don’t know,” Sgt. Loggia said.
Some residents who identified themselves as “concerned neighbors” said they believed the East Avenue shooting may be drug related.
“It’s ridiculous,” one resident said Tuesday morning. “They stand [and sell] right in the street.”
But police officials say they see no escalating drug war or drug epidemic developing.
“I can’t say I’ve heard anything to that,” said Sgt. Loggia.
“It’s no more than what we’ve had in the last year,” said Southampton Town police Sergeant Susan Ralph, whose department patrols Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, three hamlets that are in the Riverhead School District. “We have different agencies trying to combat the issue.
“We hope to make a difference”
She too played down speculations that a larger problem is developing.
“With any gun violence we have those concerns but they don’t frequently happen out here; we want to keep them under control,” Sgt. Raph said. “We do have [sector] cars in the Riverside Flanders area. We do have [another] unit that we put up there frequently, it is a community response unit.”
Mr. Walter reiterated, as he had after a knife-point robbery in January on Ostrander Avenue, that he’s not ceding recent development advances downtown to criminals elements.
“I will not allow these thugs to try to reclaim or take Main Street back,” said Mr. Walter
“Let the thugs know were coming to get them, and if they decide to commit a crime in this town, we will get you,” he said. “Make no mistake about it.”