UPDATE: Police ID Pair Charged With Stealing Fire Chief Car

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UPDATE: Monday, 9:30 a.m.

Police released the names of the two men who were charged with grand larceny in the third degree: Raymond Peruggi, 23, and Corey Smith, 23, both of Center Moriches.

The exact route of the chase was also released by police, who said the vehicle was originally spotted on Route 25A in Rocky Point by either an off-duty police officer or firefighter. The SUV was then followed east through Shoreham, Riverhead, Quogue and parts of Southampton, before turning around and crashing into an Eastport snow bank on Montauk Highway.

Police also said they attempted to use stop sticks to disable the vehicle during the pursuit, but that they were unsuccessful. They declined to comment on whether there will be charges of DWI coming, as Chief Kelly alleged the two were drinking inside the vehicle.

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m.

The fire chief whose running emergency vehicle was stolen by two men in the early morning hours Sunday said he was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and that alcohol was a factor in the heist.

East Moriches Fire Chief Bryan Kelly confirmed that members of his fire company were at the Center Moriches Fire Department on Saturday night as a standby unit while the latter’s company hosted its annual awards dinner.

“My guys were protecting their district overnight, so I came in to check in on them,” Chief Kelly said Sunday afternoon. “They’re my guys, so coffee, a bite to eat, whatever they want I came to check on them. They’re my guys.”

Chief Kelly explained that as a trained paramedic who serves several districts part-time in addition to his work as fire chief, he carries oxygen tanks, an Artificial External Defibrulator (AED) and certain drugs in his car. These items, he said, need to be kept at a certain temperature to function.

“If I’m not home for the night, I always keep [my vehicle] running. It is a force of habit,” Chief Kelly said. “There isn’t a chiefs car on the island that isn’t left running for long periods of time with the keys in it because most have the same things. If someone tells you otherwise, they are lying.”

“I got a call to assist on a [paramedic] call, I ran out to get my car, and it just wasn’t there,” he continued. “The cameras caught it all, I mean, it was pretty simple. They just jumped in and took it.”

Chief Kelly said that the car was in pretty bad shape, inside and out, after the two men were in custody, but that it is salvageable in his mind.

“They were inside the car drinking and they beat it up pretty good, but at the end of the day, we’re just really happy the police did a great job and they kept these maniacs away from people getting hurt,” he said. “Even though it wouldn’t be our fault necesarily, we would’ve felt awful if something happened.”

Asked if he knew why his car was targeted, besides the obvious fact that it was running, Chief Kelly said: “I don’t know. You’ve got to be pretty crazy to do it…I wake up in the middle of the night and leave my wife and kids to check on my guys and next thing I know I’m driving around until 5 am looking for my car.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

Two men were charged with stealing an East Moriches Fire Chief’s vehicle in the early morning hours, resulting in a lengthy chase with county and multiple local police departments tailing the vehicle. Two men were taken into custody and no injuries were reported.

With the Center Moriches Fire Department hosting their annual dinner on Saturday night, members of the East Moriches Fire Department were at their colleagues’ firehouse on standby. According to a dispatcher at the Center Moriches Fire Department, the dinner was off-site, so there were few vehicles in the lot.

At about 1:15 a.m., one of those standby members noticed the vehicle, a running 2012 Chevy Tahoe with keys in the ignition, was missing, and called Suffolk County Police.

According to Suffolk County Police, surveillance video from the Center Moriches Fire Department building shows two men entering the vehicle, and driving east on Montauk Highway. Suffolk County Police vehicles, as well as their aviation units, convassed the area to no avail initially.

Then at about 7:20 a.m., the vehicle was reported being seen in the Rocky Point area. A County Police representative was unsure who spotted the vehicle, but speculated that it was an off-duty police officer or firefighter.

Minutes later, once the vehicle was identified by a Suffolk County Police cruiser at a traffic circle in Flanders, officers and the aviation unit followed the vehicle down Flanders Road, onto Montauk Highway, and through the Village of Quogue briefly.

Police say the vehicle, after turning around on Jessup Lane, headed west on Montauk Highway, before eventually crashing into a snowbank at 360 Montauk Highway in Eastport.

The full chase lasted 41 minutes, ending at 8:01 a.m., according to Southampton Town Police Sargeant James Cavanagh, who added that his department was only called to assist at 7:42 a.m.

“Well, I don’t know why, but it appears they headed East, then South, then ended up on Montauk Highway retracing their steps, going west,” a Suffolk County Police public information officer, who identified herself only by Joan, said.

Joan also said that the only damage during the chase was to the stolen fire chief’s vehicle, with a tire coming off it’s rim and front fender damage from the snow bank. No other accidents occurred during the chase, she said.

Once in custody, the two men were transported to the seventh precinct headquarters in Shirley. No word was immediately available as to charges the two men are facing, and no identifying information for either man was given.

According to Sgt. Cavanagh, only two police vehicles were in pursuit of the stolen emergency vehicle at any given time, as dictated by protocol. Suffolk County had the lead chase vehicle, and depending on the jurisdiction that the stolen vehicle crossed over into, a local department was the secondary chase vehicle. Riverhead Town Police, Southampton Town Police and Quogue Police were assisting in the chase.

“The additional units hang way behind, directed by a dispatcher,” he said. “We don’t caravan, out of concern for safety of innocent pedestrians and the people in the stolen car as well. It was only a property crime, we want to keep them safe too.”

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