Former New York City Police Officer Kevin O’Connor who worked at Ground Zero in the days and months after the 9/11 attacks. Photo by O’Connor family.
(Long Island, NY) On April 1, 2006 Suffolk County Park Police Officer Kevin O’Connor was run over and dragged by a teenager riding an ATV illegally in Setauket Woods County Park. The accident left him with a shattered left ankle, a fractured right knee cap, a torn meniscus, nerve damage in his back and his left leg as well as injuries to his tailbone and spine. He requires a wheelchair for long distances and a cane to get around. He has not been able to work since.
The teen, now a man in his early twenties, has never served a day for his crime.
On the day of the incident, Department of Environmental Conservation Police (DEC) followed the ATV tracks back to the teens house, O’Connor said in a recent telephone interview with NewsLI.com. But he was not arrested. They said there was activity in the neighborhood but no one actually saw the teen on his vehicle.
O’Connor would not sit still for this course of events. He wrote letters to eighteen Legislators, State Assemblymen, State Senators and Congressmen. His wife, Catherine, even wrote to Dick Cheney, then Vice President. Because of their efforts, Cheney and the Department of Justice began to get involved.
“The paperwork trail was mishandled”, O’Connor said. He filed a Freedom of Information request of his own paperwork – it got denied. He did finally get a copy of the accident report dated a year later, March 23, 2007.
“It was lost,” O’Connor said. “I asked Internal Affairs about it and Internal Affairs said sometimes it’s just bad police work.”
A year later, the then teen – who NewsLI.com will leave unnamed at this time since his conviction was overturned, went to Family Court. He was charged with Leaving the Scene and Failure to Report. Two misdemeanors, instead of Assault II on a police officer, which is a felony, O’Connor said.
The youth was convicted and ordered to go to counseling; he was placed on probation and was ordered to do community service. But in a later appeal, the conviction was overturned as a result of what was deemed as “legally insufficient evidence” according to reports by the Long Island Press – and didn’t have to serve his sentence.
“They were never going to arrest this kid,” O’Connor said. “So we sued him in Civil Court where he admitted to running me over.”
His parents filed a report with the insurance company about the incident. In Appellate Court the boys mother gave him an alibi and said he was with her at his aunt’s house. O’Connor feels justice will never be served.
O’Connor, a father or four, is a former New York City Police Officer who worked at Ground Zero in the days and months after the 9/11 attacks. His family convinced him to leave the NYPD fearing another terrorist attack. That’s when he joined the Suffolk County Park Police Department in 2003.
Friends, family and supporters rally with signs at the Suffolk County Offices in Hauppauge. Image credit: JusticeforOfficerOconnor.org
Since the incident, O’Connor has filed for benefits with the Police and Fire retirement system which was created for Officers who were injured in the line of duty. He has been denied. Instead of listing him in the police and fire department the Employee Retirement System is listing him as a park ranger. Those benefits include one fifth pay and no health benefits for him or his family. If he were to get a police officer’s benefits he would get three quarters pay and full health benefits. O’Connor says he is titled “Police Officer” with the Suffolk County Parks Police Department.
The Parks Commissioner brought charges against him earlier in the year, trying to terminate him. O’Connor said he had to hire a private attorney and go to court hearings. A petition has been generated requesting Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone and Park Commissioner Greg Dawson to enroll Officer Kevin O’Connor in the Police and Fire Retirement System.