2012 Top Story No. 9: Police-involved shooting, drug bust in Wading River

Thomas Counihan, Thomas Spota, Wading River, East End Drug
EAST END DRUG TASK FORCE PHOTO | Drugs police say they recovered from Thomas Counihan’s bedroom after a standoff with him on Sept. 25.

Wading River is not the type of place you associate with police-involved gunfire, large stashes of pills and heroin and guys with rap sheets going back 30 years.


But all these things came together there on the night of Sept. 25.

Thomas Counihan, a 60-year-old with 17 prior arrests and four felony convictions, was being visited at his Wading River-Manor Road home that night by two police officers after he had failed to show up for a probation appointment and drug test required as a condition of a prior drug possession arrest.

The officers then discovered that he had illegal drugs in the home and, at one point, Mr. Counihan allegedly grabbed a loaded .45 caliber pistol from his bed, pointing it first at his own face and chest and then turning it toward the two officers, authorities have said.

One of the officers then fired a shot at Mr. Counihan, which missed, but prompted him to drop to the floor, according to police, who said the officers then subdued Mr. Counihan and seized the gun.

Inside the room, investigators allegedly found and seized 250 packets of heroin, about two ounces of cocaine, a large bag of marijuana, a syringe and nine unlabeled bottles containing a variety of pills, photos of which were provided to the media by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Police from various departments were camped outside Mr. Counihan’s house for more than nine hours after the gunfire. Mr. Counihan was taken to the psychiatric unit of Stony Brook University Hospital and later transferred to the psychiatric ward at Brunswick Hospital in Amityville.

“We are relieved that the two East End Drug Task Force officers were not injured during the standoff with this dangerous, violent felon,” Mr. Spota said a day after the incident. “It is clear the police officer’s discharge of his weapon, given the circumstances, was justified.”

It wasn’t until early December that police formally arrested Mr. Counihan, charging him with third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of controlled substance; third-degree criminal possession of marijuana; menacing a police officer; second-, third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon; second-degree criminal use of a firearm; second-degree reckless endangerment; criminal possession of hypodermic instrument; and criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

He remains behind bars in lieu of $500,000 bail or $1 million bond and is due back in Suffolk County criminal court Jan. 10.