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‘Friendly Fire’ Fells Nassau Cop

Investigation ongoing after MTA cop guns down plainclothes Nassau police officer.

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."

Yankee Man March 16, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Officer is not an undercover officer. "Undercover" means he is a narcotics detective or someone who is trying not to look like a cop. If that was wnat he was looking for, he did a good job. He didnt look like a cop and he it cost him his life. If he didnt look like a cop then he should nt be running around with a rifle in his hands. Does anyone know what BOS does in nassau. Are they on patrol or do they wait at their quarters for a shooting or hostage situation. If so,,what a waste of manpower !!
Clem March 16, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Doug Schlaefer: : "I will not be commenting further on this matter. Thank you" So much for your credibility.
Howie March 16, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Ralph first you state unequivocally what something means and then you go ahead to profess that you have no idea what you are talking about. So instead of further indicting yourself as another one of the Monday Morning Quarterbacks on here who are trying to portray themselves as authorities on something that they are clueless about, based on tidbits of information that have been scrounged from multiple sources that are probably not even reliable, why don't you just shut the heck up, roll up your keyboard, and let the authorities who actually know what happened, and know the law and who is responsible for what, investigate the matter and come to a determination of what happened and why. Until then all of these ridiculous baseless suppositions and sniping at each other as well as well as the participants of this tragedy is counterproductive and a tremendous waste of time because it solves absolutely nothing besides maybe stroking some of the egos of the sudden "authorities on everything" that have suddenly been born on these boards since this situation began. It sounds like there are a few here that have a law or police background that have a grasp of the situation. ( I don't but I have a family member that is an officer). But for the most part you all sound like you have been watching too many episodes of Law and Order, Quincy, and every other tv cop show and it somehow quailfies you as an expert. I got news for. You're wrong. This is real life and you just sound dumb!!!
Eddie March 16, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Thanks, Howie. Best comment I've read here.
Yankee Man March 16, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Howie,,,,for you vocabulary list "undercover"..an officer pretending not to be a cop "plainclothes" an officer who work in civilian attire like a detective of school officer. Plainclothes guys sometime known as anti crime or street crime drive around in an un marked vehicle and wear street clothes so they will not be noticed. When they exit the vehicl they immediately display their badge for all to see

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