As bagpipes played in the background and hundreds of fellow officers cheered, Suffolk County police officer Mark Collins was discharged from a Long Island hospital on Sunday, just days after he was shot twice by an alleged gang member who police said was fleeing a traffic stop.
The 35-year-old officer, assigned to the Second Precinct gang unit, gave a thumbs up from a wheelchair as he left Stony Brook University Hospital on Sunday. Collins was shot in the neck and hip when he confronted a suspect after a traffic stop in Huntington Station on Wednesday night.
“Just a few nights ago, driving here, I heard two gunshot wounds and I had the worst thoughts in my mind and to be here today, having him walking out of the hospital, is just an amazing feeling,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said outside the hospital. “It is just a great day for the Suffolk County police department.”
Collins, who had a bandage on his neck, stood and walked on his own to a waiting car in front of the hospital. Police helicopters flew overhead as he was wheeled out.
Dr. James Vosswinkel, Stony Brook’s chief of trauma and emergency surgery, said Collins was “extremely fortunate.” He said the bullet that struck Collins in the neck “just missed the vital structure by about an inch.”
“Officer Collins is still going to require extensive treatment,” Vosswinkel said. “He still has a road to go down…but we’re hopeful he’ll be able to make a full recovery and return to doing what he loves.”
Hundreds of fellow officers and top police and county officials were at the hospital on Sunday, including Police Officer Nicholas Guerrero, who was released from Stony Brook in October after being struck by a car that was fleeing a traffic stop in Huntington. The two embraced in front of the hospital.
“I came here prepared for the worst,” Suffolk Police Chief John Meehan said, as he recalled being awoken from a sleep earlier this week to a call informing him Collins had been shot. “I don’t want to use the word miracle, but if it ever applied, it applied as this outcome.”
“I think he is a true hero,” Meehan, the chief of patrol, said. “He was by himself in a very dark alleyway, struggling for his life with this violent felon, and he performed admirably. The outcome could have been tragic.”
Police said the fleeing suspect, Sheldon Leftanant, 22, is a member of a Huntington Station-based gang known as “The Tip Top Boyz.” Collins was on patrol with two other officers when they stopped a vehicle Leftenant was in for driving recklessly on Route 25, police said. Leftenant allegedly ran from the vehicle and confronted Collins about a block away, where he had been hiding in a shed.
Leftenant, 22, fired four shots, authorities said. He has been charged with attempted aggravated murder and resisting arrest and is being held without bail. His attorney has said Leftenant is innocent.