Timelines, May 1-7, 2015

NYPD officer dies after being shot in the face

An NYPD officer who was shot in the face over the weekend has since died of his injuries at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens.
Brian Moore, a 25-year-old Massapequa native, was allegedly gunned down by Demetrius Blackwell, an ex-convict, on Saturday in Queens Village. Moore and his partner Erik Jansen approached Blackwell in plainclothes after seeing him tugging at his waistband shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday.
After asking Blackwell what he was carrying, Blackwell momentarily turned his back before drawing a gun, firing at Moore and escaping the scene. Jansen was not hit.
Blackwell, who has a lengthy rap sheet and served five years in prison for attempted murder, was arrested about 90 minutes after the shooting. He faces a first-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
Parole officers accuse Ramapo police of profiling after being held at gunpoint

Four black parole officers have leveled civil rights charges against Ramapo police after video was publicly released showing them being cornered and held at gunpoint while on official business.
The state parole officers are seeking unspecified damages in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town, county, Village of Suffern and Suffern police, alleging the local police’s actions caused them embarrassment and mental trauma as a consequence of civil rights violations and racial profiling. The officers also allege that the town’s refusal to disclose dashcam recordings of the encounter or other records constituted an attempt to cover up the incident.
The case stems from an incident last April when five officers with the Suffern Police boxed in the parole officers’ car on Route 59 and surrounded them with guns drawn. The police questioned the parole officers for several minutes during a visibly heated exchange, allegedly interrogating them even after their identities had been verified.
According to Ramapo police, the parole officers did not make a courtesy call to inform them they were exeuting a search warrant in the area, prompting responding officers to act on reports of a car filled with unidentified men in bulletproof vests. The parole officers allege that though they were wearing department-issued vests, they also sported badges and identification on the car’s dashboard.


Murder sentence could be endangered by suspect lab results

The sentencing of a Rockland man in the rape and murder of an ex-girlfriend has been postponed after forensic laboratory personnel who worked on the case were caught up in a cheating scandal.
Juan Perez-Coira, 43, of Spring Valley, was convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted criminal sexual act and first-degree attempted rape for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend Deborah Burns, 55, on Christmas Eve of 2013.
However, Perez-Coira’s attorney is now seeking to vacate the conviction in response to the six-month suspension of 15 lab technicians who allegedly obtained test answers to cheat on training exams. Among the technicians is Stacey Rack, a blood analyst who testified for the prosecution at Perez-Coira’s trial.
Prosecutor Dominic Crispino countered by stating there is no evidence the results in the Perez-Coira case were falsified and that state police are working with local prosecutors to re-test the samples. Other local prosecutors are receiving similar assistance from state police to determine their legal standing on cases processed by the suspended lab techs.

Bridgegate indictment sheds light on mechanics of New Jersey scandal

An indictment which was un-sealed on Friday has offered new details on how and why three conspirators with close ties to the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sought to stir up a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee and frustrate commuters.
The document outlines a deliberate, calculated, and oddly jovial plan to which Bill Baroni, Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein adhered in their effort to snare traffic in retaliation against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who snubbed Christie by refusing to endorse him for president. The three even used public email accounts to discuss the matter.
The plot dated back to 2011, when Christie’s team was attempting to secure support from a bipartisan coalition for his campaign. However, when Sokolich embarrassed Christie by refusing to give his blessing, Christie’s underlings verified the decision, discussed lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as leverage and clinically planned the time, date and rationale for the gridlock. When the plot came to fruition, the three cut Sokolich out of the loop even amid desperate cries for assistance, even forwarding urgent emails from the mayor and mocking the city’s troubles.
Though Christie himself has not appeared as an actor in the scandal, the fallout from the plot has been tremendous, casting a pall of vindictiveness over the highest levels of his administration and jeopardizing his presidential aspirations. Wildstein has pled guilty to his part in the scheme and is cooperating with authorities, while Kelly and Baroni continue to maintain their innocence.

U.S. Department of Transportation approves new standards for train shipment of crude oil

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on May 1 that it will issue stringent new safety standards to protect against rail accidents involving shipments of crude oil.
Included in the changes are new standards and retrofits for tank cars, improved brakes to prevent pile-ups, 40 mph rail speeds in urban areas and 50 mph rail speeds across the board, improvements to risk-assessment information-sharing with local first responders and more frequent stringent sampling and testing for the classification of materials.
The rules, though stricter than in the past, are not universally applicable to rail cars. Only “High-hazard trains,” a category which encompasses blocks of 20 or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquid, will be affected by the new rules, a standard many environmental advocates have stated is too narrow to adequately address public safety concerns.
The new standards, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in collaboration with Canadian officials, codify recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and make permanent or expand already-existing emergency orders issued by the DOT.
Transportation of bakken crude oil has become a matter of some concern in the Lower Hudson Valley, particularly in Rockland. CSX, which ships oil from refineries upstate to distribution hubs in New Jersey, runs such hazardous shipments down its Hudson River line on a weekly basis, passing through population centers in Haverstraw, Stony Point, Clarkstown and Orangetown before passing over the state line.


Federal government to phase out production of common coolant

A national phase-out of a refrigerant commonly found in air conditioning units has been initiated by the federal government with an expected completion by 2020.
The refrigerant, a gas known as R-22, will be produced less and less until its use has been completely eliminated for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The phase-out will likely affect homeowners considerably, as R-22 has been the primary refrigerant used in central air conditioning in the decades since it replaced its predecessor R-12.
Consequently, as the phase-out progresses, prices for refrigerant are expected to increase as supplies drop. Tune-ups of older AC units will likely involve newer refrigerants to replace R-22 as well.


Clarkstown garage manager paid $40K in overtime

Dennis Malone, Clarkstown’s Fleet Manager, received a surprisingly high overtime payout over the past few years, netting over $40,00 in 2014 alone.
Attendance records revealed that for 373.5 hours of overtime in 2014, Malone received $41,187. This figure is on top of $110,000 in overtime between 2012 and 2014 and an annual salary of almost the same amount.
The fleet manager frequently bolstered his hours by working Saturdays, when he argued he was needed due to a lack of on-duty drivers. Malone also received overtime for weather-related emergencies, night shifts and time spent repairing snow plows and police cars.
A consolidation of municipal garages placed most of Clarkstown’s road services under Malone’s authority in an effort to save costs. Town officials have argued the consolidation would save money by reducing redundancies, enhancing efficiency and improving long-term prospects for equipment maintenance.
Consolidation has produced legal battles as well. Highway Superintentent Wayne Ballard fought against the transference of eight mechanics from his department in state court. Ballard initially won, but the decision was reversed on appeal.

County Executive to hold summit with Rockland religious leaders

In an effort to alleviate tensions brought to the forefront by recent events, County Executive Ed Day announced this week that he will hold closed-door, interfaith meetings with local religious leaders at Rockland Community College next Wednesday.
Though the meeting will be closed to the public, it will likely include Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy from both Rockland and New York City. Included among attendees are executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis Joseph Potasnik, First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem senior pastor Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr., Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro., and local Orthodox leader Ronnie Greenwald.
Tensions have been high in recent months, particularly as the East Ramapo School District prepares for the possibility of a fiscal monitor who could nullify the votes of the largely ultra-Orthodox school board and the rift between the religious and secular community have become wider. Allegations of anti-Semitism against the well-known Block the Bloc Vote Facebook group by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council have further inflamed tensions, particularly after the Council released a controversial YouTube video comparing criticism of the Orthodox community to the Holocaust.


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