Former Suffolk Hate Crimes Commander Dead in Car Crash

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Newsday reports that Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks was killed in a one car accident early this morning. Maryann Slutsky, director of Long Island Wins, expresses the organization’s sorrow at the news and offers condolences to the family of Det. Sgt. Reecks.

According to Newsday:

A Suffolk County police hate crimes unit supervisor who handled numerous high-profile bias cases was killed Saturday in an early morning one-car accident on Sunrise Highway.

Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks, 57, was off duty and driving an unmarked take-home department car at the time of the 5:32 a.m. crash, Det. Lt. Gail Marrero said.

Police are investigating whether speed was a factor in the crash, she said.

On Friday, Reecks had worked a 2 to 10 p.m. shift. “We’re still trying to piece together his pre-accident activities,” said Marrero, a Seventh Squad supervisor investigating the crash.

Police said Saturday morning that the fatal accident occurred eastbound on Sunrise Highway near Moriches-Middle Island Road when the 2008 Ford sedan hit a concrete support for a bridge.

A 100-yard-long pair of tire tracks remained on the grass median where the car apparently left the road before smashing into the underpass abutment.

“He veered off the roadway and struck the concrete bridge support,” Marrero said.

Reecks was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

During a press conference at Suffolk Police headquarters in Yaphank, Marrerro said there was no indication drugs or alcohol played a factor in the crash. But she said she can’t rule it out until after hearing from the medical examiner.

Police have not found any witnesses to the crash.

“It makes you realize how fragile life is,” said Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Central Islip), who worked closely with Reecks in his role as bias crimes commanding officer.

Reecks was a 30-year police veteran and had for 13 years served as commanding officer of the department’s bias-crimes unit. In January, he was replaced as head of the unit but continued to serve as a deputy in the unit.

After the change in leadership, Reecks abruptly resigned from the Suffolk County Legislature’s Hate Crimes Task Force, which was formed after the killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue in 2008.

“It’s a tragic loss for all of the communities who are victims of hate crimes,” said David Kilmnick, chief executive of Long Island GLBT Services Network, based in Bay Shore. “We lost a strong leader and a strong voice and a great advocate.” Kilmnick served on the task force with Reecks.

Task force colleagues said Reecks was always accessible and dedicated to fighting hate and bias crimes.

“I always found him to be a true fighter in the face of crimes and acts of bias and prejudice and hatred,” said Rabbi Steven Moss, of the B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, chair of Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

At about 10 a.m. Saturday, a Suffolk County police tow truck began removing the unmarked Ford police car, covered by a blue tarp, and officers shoveled bits of debris onto a truck.

As the car was pulled free of the underpass guardrail, its engine and other mangled debris remained in the roadway.

Police had blocked Sunrise Highway at William Floyd Parkway from the west and Wading River Road from the east for hours, snarling Hamptons-bound traffic. The road was reopened just after 11 a.m.

Police on the scene declined to comment. As in other police departments in the metropolitan area, it’s customary for some supervisors to be issued department take-home vehicles.

People gathered at the Reecks’ home in Riverhead Saturday morning to offer condolences to Reecks’ wife, Rita.

The family declined to comment, asking for privacy in the wake of the crash.

“This is a sad day for Suffolk County,” said County Executive Steve Levy. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Det. Sgt. Reecks’ family and friends.”

UPDATE 8/7/2011- According to Newsday: Police said Reecks had worked a 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift Friday night, and that they were investigating how he spent the hours before the crash. A paramedic who stopped to help smashed a window and took Reecks’ pulse, finding him unresponsive, said Donald Dixon, a motorcyclist who also stopped to help after the crash. Dixon said he was driving in the right lane when Reecks’ car passed him traveling an estimated 90-100 mph. “He hit that abutment and it just disintegrated,” Dixon said of the Ford.


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