|Updated November 5, 2016 5:59 PM|
By John Asbury and Jean-Paul Salamanca
|A vigil was held for slain NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo outside The Paramount in Huntington, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (Credit: Jeffrey Basinger)|
They came to mourn a hometown hero.
Several hundred people gathered in the heart of Huntington village to share their sorrow on a crisp fall day. An American flag was ceremoniously lowered to half-staff. Blue ribbons fluttered in the breeze.
On Saturday evening, the community offered a somber salute to NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, who was shot to death the day before while trying to apprehend a gunman in the Bronx.
It was a traditional vigil, with the crowd outside The Paramount, a concert hall on New York Avenue, shedding tears and clutching lighted candles.
Tuozzolo, 41, of nearby Greenlawn, was married with two young sons — facts that only added to the collective grief.
“Huntington is noted for coming together to keep our community safe,” Town Supervisor Frank Petrone told the crowd. “This family is not going to hear the garage door open or a car pull up and see Dad walk out. Our duty is to respect our cops. We owe them our support in coming together for what they do and show our gratitude every day.”
Petrone ordered all flags to remain at half-staff until after Tuozzolo’s funeral, which has not been scheduled. Firefighters solemnly lowered the flag at The Paramount.
Blue ribbons were tied on lampposts or hung in the windows of businesses in solidarity with police.
Frank Caputo, 36, of Bayville, said he knew Tuozzolo growing up when the two attended Locust Valley High School.
As a friend of Tuozzolo’s family, he said the deadly shooting was an emotional blow.
“It’s devastating,” Caputo said. “It’s important now that we all come together as a community in support of his family.”
“This was our hometown boy,” said Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport).
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini and County Executive Steve Bellone, who attended the vigil, said they visited the Tuozzolo home Saturday afternoon.
“Our visit was a sign of respect to make clear how much we support Sgt. Tuozzolo after he paid the ultimate sacrifice. Suffolk police stands with the family and support any way possible,” Sini said.
Tuozzolo, a 19-year NYPD veteran, grew up in Bayville and moved with his family to Huntington a few years ago, friends and neighbors said.
For Bruce Moodnik, 60, of Huntington, the shooting hit close to home. His girlfriend, Colette Buzzetta, has a son who recently became a police officer in Phoenix.
“I had to be here,” Moodnik said at the vigil. “It was very important for me to show my support for police officers and what they do.”