Nassau County and MTA police officials Sunday were still investigating why a Nassau plainclothes police officer was accidentally shot and killed while responding to a crime scene in Massapequa Park.
Minutes after a knife-wielding Massapequa Park man was shot dead in his own home Saturday night in a confrontation with officers from the Seventh Precinct, an MTA officer on scene opened fire on a Nassau cop.
Geoffrey J. Breitkopf, 40, a member of the elite Bureau of Special Operations, was shot once by an MTA officer as he approached the house at 5 Fourth Ave. Breitkopf and his partner arrived in an unmarked unit about 8-to-13 minutes after the initial shooting, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said.
Mulvey added that Breitkopf was carrying a rifle.
“This has been described as friendly fire,” Mulvey said at a Sunday press briefing at police headquarters in Mineola. “Let me debunk that. There’s no such thing as friendly fire. Any time shots are fired, it is not in a friendly situation. It is an inherent danger of police work.”
The gunshot struck Breitkopf on the right side of the chest and exited to the left through his arm. It’s not clear whether he was wearing a protective vest. Breitkopf was transported to Nassau University Medical Center, where he died at 9:19 p.m.
The last accidental shooting death of a Nassau police officer happened on Nov. 14, 1976, when George Kempen, 38, was killed during a stolen car chase. This marks the second death in the line of duty this year for Nassau police. Prior, no county cops had been killed in the line of duty since 1993.
A 12-year veteran of the force and member of OPS since October 2003, Breitkopf has received five command recognitions, four meritorious police service awards and a medal of commendation. He also served as a volunteer firefighter in Selden, where he resided with his wife, Paula, and two young boys, aged 6 and 3.
“He was dedicated to those boys,” said fellow OPS officer Steven Paul, who was in the same graduating class with Breitkopf at the academy. “I just saw a Facebook picture today with his kids by a fire truck. That’s what he lived for. That’s all any father lives for.”
Anthony DiGeronimo, 21, was also killed Saturday after he charged at Seventh Precinct officers with two large knives in hand.
Police responded to a report of a man with several knives menacing the neighborhood between Fourth Ave. and Front Street. DiGeronimo jumped on the hood of a car on Front Street driven by a woman in her 70s, Nassau police Lt. Kevin Smith said. He brandished one of his knives and struck the car with it in a stabbing motion.
“He tried to stab the car,” Smith said.
When police arrived, DiGeronimo fled. He ran into his house and locked himself in a back room. Officers gave chase and evacuated his parents from the home. Moments later, DiGeronimo opened the door and lunged at the officers. That’s when they opened fire, striking DiGeronimo seven times.
“He barged out of the room in a wild manner with the knife above his head,” Mulvey said. “Masked leather; Satanic garb; knives all over his body. He had knives in both hands.”
MTA officers happened to be in the area responding to a stuck elevator at the nearby Long Island Rail Road station, Mulvey said. They heard the police transmissions and went to the crime scene. Breitkopf and his partner responded in similar fashion.
Their paths intersected in a chaotic moment that ended tragically, leaving officials to figure out if changes in procedure need to be made.
“It’s unfortunate,” Mulvey said. “These kinds of circumstances, when they occur, cause us to take a step back and review what we are doing – review our protocols. That is happening. We were discussing that last night at the hospital.”
The MTA officer is on sick leave "dealing with the trauma" and will likely not face any charges, Mulvey said.
“We’re going to miss him very deeply,” Paul said of the slain officer. “We’re not going to fill that hole.”
The MTA released a statement late Sunday: "The entire MTA family wishes to share its condolences with the Nassau County Police Department and the family of a Nassau County officer tragically killed in an accidental shooting last night. The MTA Police Department is cooperating with Nassau County PD and DA's offices in the ongoing investigation."