07/25/13 2:30pm
07/25/2013 2:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January.

Jamal Davis says it seems like every day on the news he hears about someone getting hurt.

“There’s always something happening to somebody else,” he said. “So much happens every day. Someone killed in Brentwood, somebody killed somewhere else.”

He thinks about his brother, Demitri Hampton, the easygoing Suffolk County Community College student and Riverhead High School graduate, a former Blue Waves basketball player and beloved role model to his peers.

He said he tries not to think about the early January morning when two masked men stormed into his cousin’s house and shot and killed Mr. Hampton as he tried to fight them off.

Nearly six months later, Mr. Hampton’s murder has not been solved.

“It’s hard to grasp,” Mr. Davis said. “Demitri’s not the only person dying out there, but how do they find out who did it?”

Mr. Hampton was killed about 3 a.m. Jan. 27, when the two intruders burst through the front door of Mr. Hampton’s cousin’s house on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders.

[RELATED: Previous coverage of Demitri Hampton]

His cousin was sleeping inside, as was Mr. Hampton’s girlfriend.

Mr. Hampton was downstairs playing video games at the time of the break-in and rushed upstairs to confront the intruders, family members said. He fought with one of the men in the kitchen but was shot in the chest during the struggle.

The men quickly fled the scene and Mr. Hampton was rushed to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, said her family has begun “a phase of healing” since her son’s death.

“We don’t openly speak about it any more,” she said. “When we speak, we speak of the good times. We don’t speak of that night.”

Suffolk County police have declined to be interviewed about the case but said the investigation to find Mr. Hampton’s killers is active. They declined to provide further updates.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampon appeared on the cover of a Suffolk County Community College campus magazine in 2012.

Ms. Trent said the detectives working the case have kept in touch with the family since the shooting, most recently at a fundraiser in May for a scholarship in Mr. Hampton’s honor.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m praying for justice,” Ms. Trent said. “I just want this closure for so many people, not just myself. For my children, for his friends. Nothing’s going to bring him back, but I still grieve.”

She said she prays to God to give the detectives the strength to catch her son’s killers.

“I want to keep praying for them to please get these people off the streets so no one else gets hurt,” she said. “That gun is still out there.”

Mr. Davis said he understands that the detectives are in a difficult situation.

“There’s only one homicide unit in Suffolk County,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s tough, I gotta put myself in their shoes.”

Hundreds rallied to support Mr. Hampton’s family after the murder, with vigils and ceremonies held in the ensuing weeks honoring the young man.

Theresa Drozd, a founder of the Riverhead schools’ anti-gang group Council for Unity, of which Mr. Hampton was a member, said the young man was a “super kid.”

“He had a heart of gold,” she said. “Always had a smile for somebody.”

She said it’s frustrating to know that Mr. Hampton’s killers have not been caught.

“It’s almost like you need closure,” she said. “And until you bring that person in, or those people in, and bring them to justice, you’re not going to get closure.”

More than 200 people crowded into Robert Ludlam Park in May to donate money for the DQH Memorial Scholarship that Mr. Hampton’s family established in his name.

Last month, the family was able to hand out the first of what they hope will be an annual award.

Two $500 scholarships were given to Nicole Mauro and Heather Zilnicki, Riverhead High School graduates who will be attending Suffolk County Community College in the fall.

“The scholarship ended up working out good,” Mr. Davis said. “I got to talk a little bit about Demitri and what a response we’ve gotten in our first year.”

Mr. Hampton’s mother used the scholarship as a project to occupy herself in the months following the shooting, Mr. Davis said. But Ms. Trent said the fundraiser also opened up old wounds, as she had to tell her son’s story over and over.

“The hardest part of that scholarship was going out, going to vendors and reliving everything,” she said.

With the fundraiser complete, Ms. Trent has focused her attention on renewing her wedding vows next month, a celebration they had planned before Mr. Hampton’s death.

Ms. Trent said she’ll have a purple ribbon at the ceremony, as a way to show Mr. Hampton is still with the family.

“It’s a celebration of life,” she said.

Since the shooting, Mr. Hampton’s cousin has moved back into the house where the home invasion occurred, Ms. Trent said.

She said she doesn’t fear staying in her house alone; God is protecting her, she said.

“You don’t walk in fear; that’s part of the Devil’s path,” she said. “I refuse to live my life that way.”

Still, Ms. Trent said she’s “missing a big chunk” of her family with Demitri’s death.

“I’m not the same person I was,” she said. “I can’t go back to that same person I was.”

Despite the fact that no arrests have been made in the case, Mr. Davis remains hopeful his brother’s killers will be found soon.

“Six months, you know?” he said. “It’s not too long yet.”


05/21/13 2:15pm

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Police investigate an armed robbery scene in Polish Town Monday night.

UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): The 33-year-old Riverhead man who allegedly attempted to rob an Osborn Avenue store Monday night faced a judge this afternoon, answering to two felony charges.

Nicholas Savino is charged with two counts of second-degree robbery after displaying what appeared to be a handgun at International Connection and demanding money about 8:45 p.m., police said.

Mr. Savino hit a store worker several times in the head, causing lacerations to the man’s face, prosecutors said during his arraignment in Riverhead Town court.

The worker was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, according to a release.

Two other workers subdued Mr. Savino until police arrived, prosecutors said in court. Visible cuts could be seen around Mr. Savino’s neck and face while in court this afternoon.

Justice Richard Ehlers granted an order of protection for the store workers involved in the incident.

Procesuters said Mr. Savino has been convicted of one felony and eight misdemeanors prior to the incident.

He also failed to appear in court on four separate occasions, prosecutors said.

Mr. Savino is being held on $300,000 bail.

Original Story: Less than 30 minutes after a shooting sent a Polish Town woman to a hospital Monday night, three employees at a store on nearby Osborn Avenue wrestled an armed robber to the ground in an unrelated incident.

Nicholas Savino, 33, of Riverhead displayed a handgun as he entered International Connection and demanded money of three employees there at about 8:45 p.m., police said. The three men quickly fought him off and held him down until police could arrive.

It was later learned the gun Mr. Savino used in the robbery was actually a BB pistol, police said.

Mr. Savino and one of the employees were taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries from the scuffle, police said.

A worker at the store, who did not give a name Monday night, said, “I’m just happy everyone is safe and we could all go home with our lives tonight.”

Mr. Savino is being held at police headquarters on two counts of second-degree robbery, police said. He is expected to be arraigned later Tuesday morning. He was previously arrested last February on a warrant related to a charge of petit larceny.


04/14/13 7:45am
04/14/2013 7:45 AM

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | A candlelight vigil against gun violence was held in Grangebel Riverfront Park in Riverhead Saturday night.

Calling for federal action against gun violence, a candlelight vigil took place Saturday night at Grangebel Riverfront Park in Riverhead.

The one-hour vigil, themed “We Have Not Forgotten,” was planned by Riverhead Organizing for Action, part of a national nonprofit that advocates for federal policies throughout the country.

It came after several incidents of gun violence that have hit close to home, including the death of Riverhead High School graduate Demitri Hampton, who was gunned down in his cousin’s Flanders home in January.


02/27/13 6:48am
02/27/2013 6:48 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A bullet pierced the window of an East Avenue home Tuesday night.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A bullet pierced the window of an East Avenue home Tuesday night.

Riverhead police believe the home two masked men fired bullets into Tuesday night was targeted, but the reason remains a mystery.

“For what reason, I don’t know,” said Riverhead police Sergeant Joseph Loggia.

Police are still searching for the two men they say shot at an East Avenue house in downtown Riverhead and then fled the area on foot.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Several bullets pierced the windows, though no one was hurt.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Several bullets pierced the windows, though no one was hurt.

The shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m. at 216 East Avenue, where two adults and three children ages 5, 12 and 15 were inside, police said.

Nobody was injured in the incident.

One of the masked men had also broken into the home, but nothing was reported stolen, Sgt. Loggia said.

A man believed to be the target took off on foot following the shooting.

“He did flee the house but I believe he fled for his own safety,” Sgt. Loggia said.

Police could not say if drugs were involved at this time, Sgt. Loggia said.

Investigators found shell casings on the ground outside the house, but a search for the individuals produced no results.

“We’ve solved crimes with less,” Sgt. Loggia said.

The blue house appears to be neatly cared for. Property records indicate it is owned by Tomasz Mejsak of Southold. Mr. Mejsak could not be located for comment.

“[The block] is changing,” said a man who described himself as a concerned neighbor, adding that he doesn’t let his teenage daughter play outside anymore. “It wasn’t a bad neighborhood before. ”

A man who identified himself as living in the targeted house, where a porch light was still on Wednesday morning, declined to comment.

Another neighbor described the head of the family that lives in the home as “a nice guy.”

“He takes good care of his kids,” he said.

The neighbor also complained about a drug epidemic in the area.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “They stand [and sell] right in the street.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Riverhead Police at (631) 727-4500.

The shooting comes two weeks after four suspects were arrested for shooting at a house on nearby Third Street.

The shooters in that incident will be arraigned in Suffolk County criminal court Wednesday.


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02/14/13 12:38pm

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Bullet holes in the window of a second-story apartment following a Wednesday night shooting in Riverhead.

The two families who live in the Riverhead house that was shot up in a Wednesday night drive-by shooting say they are searching for answers as they fear for their safety.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  A bullet grazed the ceiling and police cut a hole to investigate.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A bullet grazed the ceiling and police cut a hole to investigate.

Wilmer Nunez said he was asleep with his wife on the second floor when bullets exploded through a wall and bedroom window, waking the couple up.

“I’ve been [in the U.S.] 14 years and this is the first time I’ve ever been scared like that,” Mr. Nunez said.

The couple has lived in the two-family Third Street house for three years, he said.

Members of a family that lives on the first floor of the home attended the Thursday morning arraignment of the four suspects in Town Justice Court.

A woman who lives on the first floor — the family requested their names not be published — said she was half asleep when her sister came into her room yelling, “Shots were fired! Shots were fired!”

Two bullets got caught in the steel door directly in front of where the sister was sitting in a chair, the woman said. A third bullet ripped through a linen closet on the first floor.

Two children, ages 8 and 10, the grandchildren of the woman, were also in the apartment at the time of the shooting.

“We work, we stay here, we keep to ourselves,” the woman said. “We don’t understand why this has happened.”

The family members on hand at the arraignment said they do not know the four suspects and that they were concerned to hear prosecutors say the suspects have possible gang affiliations.

The woman said faith in God is helping the family through the ordeal and they’re grateful the alleged perpetrators were caught so quickly.

“God had his eyes watching over my sister and her family,” she said.

When told the suspects had been arrested, Mr. Nunez said he “got goosebumps.”

Neither of the two families own the house, which is owned by Bagshaw Rentals of East Main Street.

“Both families have lived there for years and years and never had a police issue there,” said Sandra Hogan of Bagshaw Rentals.

The family that lives on the first floor moved in in 1994, she said.

“They think it’s a case of mistaken identity, but we don’t know,” Ms. Hogan said.


02/03/13 6:00am
02/03/2013 6:00 AM
A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings.

So I have this old, rusty, single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of our bedroom, awaiting its fate.

What to do with it? Leave it where it lies, indefinitely? Attempt to melt it down in the burn barrel out back by the garage? (No, that would be against all sorts of laws, including those of nature.) Sell it through this newspaper’s classified ads? (No, can’t do that because the paper no longer accepts such ads, even for “antique” guns.) Or perhaps eBay? (No, “actual firearms” can’t be listed for sale there either.)

What to do with it? Hey, I have an idea: Why not encourage local police departments to implement gun buyback programs similar to those that have been so successful around the nation, particularly in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

This is basically how they work: Police departments set a place and time where and when guns of any sort — from single-shot derringers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to the sort of multi-round assault rifle used to mow down elementary school children in Connecticut — are turned in voluntarily, with no questions asked. Those turning in the guns are compensated — sometimes with cash, but more often with gift cards that can’t be used to buy another gun — and the unwanted guns are properly disposed of by the cops.

I very much doubt that buyback programs here would generate the quantity of guns produced in big city programs, if only because our populations are so much smaller by comparison. But any gun taken off the street is a gun that won’t figure in an accident or an act of violence, such as the tragic shooting in Flanders this weekend, and that’s a very good thing.

Skeptics routinely disparage them as “feel good” programs that do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the criminally insane, but that’s not the only objective. As The Trenton (N.J.) Times editorialized after that city’s recent gun buyback program: “They represent an opportunity to safely dispose of old and malfunctioning firearms that could mean death in the hands of a child. We regulate the disposal of appliances, of paint, of outdated medication lest they spill destructive chemicals. It’s logical to be as conscientious about the clearing away of potentially deadly instruments.”

This week I have surveyed the chiefs of police in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island, asking them if they would support such a program in their towns, and I will let readers of this column know their responses as soon as I receive them. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department used to buy back guns, but that program was discontinued when the grant money dried up, according to the department’s public information office.

And time is wasting, as they say, with recent reports in this newspaper about unprecedented sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of the passage of New York State’s tough new Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Meanwhile, a reader of my December column on gun control has pledged $1,000 to help implement such a program in Southold Town. And depending on the response we receive from the police chiefs, the former Joan Giger Walker and I will pledge another $1,000.

I wonder how many other community members would be willing to make small pledges to get the guns off our streets.

And if you’re wavering on this question, please take to heart these words of ex-New York City policeman Howard Martin of Manorville, as quoted in this newspaper last week: “Behind every tree, every window, every door there is a gun. It is the one thing that keeps America free.”

And bloody.

01/10/13 4:27pm
01/10/2013 4:27 PM

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again.  We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.  While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners – honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.  It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works – and what does not.”

Source: Media statement from the NRA.

01/09/13 11:59pm
01/09/2013 11:59 PM

An argument over $60 caused a Riverhead man to fire one shot from a 20-gauge shotgun in the direction of the man he was bickering with on East Main Street Wednesday afternoon, according to a Riverhead Town police press release.

William Beisler, 30, of Daly Court fired the shot shortly before 4 p.m., after he and Michelle Terrasi, 32, of Doctors Path got into an argument with 21-year-old Miguel Rojas Decker of East Main Street, police said.

Mr. Decker told police that Mr. Beisler pointed the firearm in his direction and fired one shot, but did not strike him. After police arrived on the scene, the gun was located in Ms. Terrasi’s vehicle.

Mr. Beisler was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree menacing, along with a gun possession charge.

No other arrests were made in the incident and no injuries were reported.