03/02/13 12:00pm
03/02/2013 12:00 PM
Woolworth cops

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO |
Riverhead police officers Brian Clements and Chris Parkin in front of the Woolworth building, just a few blocks south of where a home invasion and shooting happened Tuesday on East Avenue.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO  |  Pallbearers carrying the casket out the Demitri Hampton funeral at Galilee Church of God in Christ last month.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Pallbearers carrying the remains of Demitri Hampton from a funeral last month at Galilee Church of God in Christ.

“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.

Downtown Riverhead crime

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | A bullet hole in the window of a second-story apartment following a Feb. 13 drive-by shooting.

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.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Bullet holes in the window of an East Avenue home Tuesday morning.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Bullet holes in the window of an East Avenue home Tuesday morning.

“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.”

 cmiller@timesreview.com

COLUMN: WHICH WAY WILL DOWNTOWN BREAK?

02/27/13 2:28pm
02/27/2013 2:28 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons, Jeffrey Despeines and Jordan Harrell, were all arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges Thursday morning.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons, Jeffrey Despeines and Jordan Harrell, as they were led into Riverhead court Feb. 14. They were later indicted by a grand jury.

A bullet found at the scene of a Third Street drive-by shooting earlier this month matches shell casings found in the car from which four people were arrested after the shooting prosecutors said in Suffolk County criminal courtroom Wednesday.

Three of the four people arrested in connection with the shooting pleaded not guilty to felony reckless endangerment and weapons charges after being indicted by a grand jury. Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport, Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford, and former Riverhead resident Jasmine Parsons, 19, now of Mastic, are facing first-degree reckless endangerment charges.

Mr. Baldwin was also charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon after police found he had brass knuckles during his arrest.

The alleged shooter, Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach, had his arraignment moved to Friday.

Riverhead Town police responded to the house on Third Street just before 9 p.m. on Feb. 13 after hearing gunfire. A nearby officer on patrol said he saw a Ford Taurus leaving the scene of the shooting and stopped the car soon after, arresting the group on nearby Peconic Avenue, police said.

Authorities said they found spent shell casings on the floor of the car, allegedly driven by Ms. Parsons. Those casings were later matched to “at least” one bullet dug from the house, prosecutors said. Police also discovered Mr. Despeines had a spent magazine in his shirt pocket at the time of his arrest and had a loaded Smith & Wesson .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun, prosecutors said.

The assistant district attorney at Wednesday’s arraignment also revealed the registration on the gun had been defaced.

Mr. Despeines is accused of being the shooter in the drive-by, allegedly firing seven rounds into a two-family house with several adults and two young children inside.

No one was injured in the incident.

Mr. Baldwin had a prior arrest for third-degree assault in 2011 adjudicated, prosecutors said. In previous court appearances, prosecutors had said Mr. Baldwin is involved in a gang. Mr. Baldwin’s defense attorney said he lived with his parents and asked for nominal bail to be set.

Judge William Condon said Mr. Baldwin had failed to appear in court several times during his “albeit brief” criminal history. Mr. Baldwin was held in Suffolk County jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond.

Ms. Parsons, the alleged driver in the drive-by shooting, has an “extensive criminal history” including a prior conviction for attempted robbery, prosecutors said.

She is currently on probation after serving a six-month sentence. She was also held on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond.

Mr. Harrell has three pending cases in Suffolk County court, authorities said, one for endangering the welfare of a child in November 2011, one for criminal contempt in February 2011 and a pending felony assault charge from last October. He was held at Suffolk County jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 bond.

Mr. Despeines was scheduled to be arraigned on grand jury charges as the shooter in the drive-by, but his lawyer did not attend court Wednesday afternoon. His arraignment was rescheduled to Friday.

A friend of Ms. Parsons and the family of Mr. Harrell attended the court proceedings to support the suspects.

Toni Harrell, Mr. Harrell’s mother, said her son was helping her with groceries the day of the shooting when he told her he was going to take a ride with Mr. Baldwin, Ms. Harrell’s cousin.

She said her son didn’t know the other people in the car and rejected the prosecutor’s claim that he had an “apparent gang affiliation.”

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ms. Harrell said. “He didn’t have anything to do with this.”

Mr. Harrell will be a father in April, his mother added.

“He wants to come home to see his son born,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

02/27/13 12:40am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons, Jeffrey Despeines and Jordan Harrell, were all arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges Thursday morning.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Eric Baldwin Jr., Jasmine Parsons, Jeffrey Despeines and Jordan Harrell, as they were led into Riverhead Justice Court Feb. 14.

Three men and a woman arrested after a drive-by shooting on Third Street in Riverhead Feb. 13 will be arraigned on a grand jury indictment Wednesday in Suffolk County criminal court, prosecutors said.

The four, Jeffrey Despeines, 21, of Centereach, Jordan Harrell, 18, of Medford, Eric Baldwin Jr., 18, of Bellport, and Jasmine Parsons, 19, of Mastic (formerly of Rivrhead) made initial court appearances in Riverhead Justice Court and have since been held at the county jail in Riverside awaiting grand jury deliberations.

SEE PRIOR COVERAGE

The indictment will be unsealed and the charges outlined in Judge William Condon’s courtroom Wednesday.

Riverhead Town police responded to the scene upon hearing the shots just before 9 p.m. that Wednesday night and stopped a car soon after, arresting the group on nearby Peconic Avenue after spotting spent shell casings on the car’s floorboard, police and prosecutors said.

Mr. Despeines is accused of being the shooter in the drive-by, allegedly firing seven rounds into a two-family house with several adults and two young children inside.  No one was injured in the incident.

mwhite@timesreview.com