An MTA police officer accidentally shot and killed a Nassau County police officer responding to a Massapequa Park home where officers had gunned down a self-professed Satan worshipper who lunged at them with a pair of hunting knives on Saturday night, authorities said.
Two Seventh Precinct officers fired a total of seven shots at Anthony DiGeronimo inside the 4th Avenue home where the 21-year-old lived with his parents at 8:13 p.m. About 10 minutes later, Geoffrey Breitkopf of the elite Bureau of Special Operations (BSO), was walking up to the house when the MTA officer shot him in an apparent moment of confusion.
Breitkopf died about an hour later at Nassau University Medical Center with his family by his side. DiGeronimo died at the scene.
“The circumstances surrounding what happened at that particular point in time are under review,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said at a news conference Sunday. In a separate case, a New York City Police officer was killed in Brooklyn hours later early Sunday morning.
The chaos unfolded when DiGeronimo, donning a mask covering part of his face, a black leather jacket studded with chains and what Mulvey described as “Satanic-like garb,” allegedly brandished a knife at his neighbor, 71-year-old Theresa Kelly, who lives two blocks away on Front Street.
Kelly screamed. She said DiGeronimo, who she did not know, laughed. She called 911 to report the incident and followed him down the block.
The first officers on the scene confronted the DiGeronimo, who Mulvey said had several large knives strapped to him, before he ran into his parent’s home and barricaded himself in his bedroom. The officers followed DiGeronimo in the house, unsure if it was his, and ordered his mother and father outside, Mulvey said.
“All I heard them say was ‘put down the knife, put down knife’ and all hell broke loose,” Kelly told the Press.
“Don’t shoot my son, don’t shoot my son, you don’t understand,” Kelly said she overheard the suspect’s father say while police were in the house.
Mulvey said DiGeronimo charged at the officers with one knife in each hand and one raised over his head when officers opened fire–one firing three shots, the other four.
It was not immediate clear how many shots hit DiGeronimo. A police spokesman described the knives, each with 8-inch blades, as “Rambo-style.”
MTA police officers who were handling a report of a broken elevator at the nearby Long Island Rail Road station, responded to the scene and were outside the home at the time of the shooting. Eight to 12 minutes later, Officer Breitkopf was walking up to the house in plainclothes with a rifle at his side when the MTA officer shot him in the right side, Mulvey said.
The bullet went through his chest and lodged in his left arm. He was taken to NUMC in East Meadow where he died.
Mulvey said the MTA officer had apparently misconstrued a threat when Breitkopf approached, emphasizing that the actual cause of the shooting is under investigation.
The MTA officer, whose name was not released, is out on sick leave. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a statement offering condolences.
Breitkopf, a 12-year veteran of the police force, had been a highly decorated member of the BSO unit for seven years. The unit often conducts undercover patrols and backs up uniformed patrol officers.
“When cops need help on the street, this is who they call,” said James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association. He described Breitkopf as a “cop’s cop.”
He was an avid motorcyclist, volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Selden, had become a trainer for BSO and even had the unit’s ensignia tatooed on his chest. He is survived by his wife, Paula and two children; Connor and Owen, ages 6 and 3.
County Executive Ed Mangano ordered flags at county building be flown at half staff and rescheduled the state of county address, which had been set for Monday.
Police said they found more than a dozen knives in DiGeronimo’s collection. He had no prior arrests but was once interviewed by police after he was found hanging out near a known drug-dealing location, police said.
In on online profile that he posted on various websites, DiGeronimo, who described himself as, among other things, an anarchist, wrote: “I rarely go outside anymore mostly because I hate interacting with society.”
-With Christopher Twarowski