Shooting brings violent crime to Rep. Zeldin's doorstep

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Republican candidate for New York Governor Congressman Lee Zeldin, right, stands with his daughters Arianna, center, and Mikayla, left, as he speaks to reporters before marching in the annual Columbus Day Parade, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK – A shooting outside U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s Long Island home is giving the Republican a fresh, personal perspective on the kind of violent crime that has been a focus of his campaign for governor.

Two 17-year-old boys were wounded by gunfire from a moving car Sunday afternoon while walking in front of Zeldin’s home, police said. Zeldin’s daughters, both 16, heard the gunshots, locked themselves in a bathroom and called 911.

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“It doesn’t hit any closer to home than this,” Zeldin said to a reporter while marching in a parade on Monday. “This could be anyone across this entire state.”

Police have divulged few details about the wounded teens, whose wounds were not life threatening, or what might have led to the shooting.

Speaking to reporters outside Zeldin's home Monday, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said investigators suspect the victims were targeted and were looking in to whether the shooting might be gang related. No arrests have been made.

Harrison said he’s deploying more officers to Zeldin’s neighborhood, in Shirley on Long Island’s South Shore, as a precaution. A squad car was parked Monday near Zeldin’s home.

Zeldin, who is running against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, has made tackling violent crime a pillar of his campaign.

Overall, statistics show Suffolk County, where he lives, is relatively safe.

Linked in popular imagination with the Hamptons and its beachy coastlines, the county is one of the richest in the United States. Last year it had the fifth-lowest violent crime rate of the state’s 62 counties, according to state data.

Through August this year, the Suffolk Police Department, which patrols much of the county of 1.5 million people, had reported 47 shootings and 12 shooting deaths. That’s fewer than at this same point in 2021.

Zeldin and his wife were returning from a parade in the Bronx and weren’t home at the time of the shooting. Police said they had no reason to believe it had any connection to him. The wounded teens were from the nearby towns of Mastic and Mastic Beach.

Zeldin said his daughters were rattled but otherwise safe. They marched with him Monday in the 78th Annual Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan.

“Yesterday was a pretty traumatic day,” Zeldin said. “When they heard the screaming the concern was — for them, what was most traumatic, was that they thought that these people were trying to get in the house.”

It’s the second scare Zeldin has had in several months.

In July, he was assaulted while campaigning in upstate New York when a man approached him onstage and thrust a sharp object near his head and neck. He was uninjured and the man was arrested.

Zeldin has pledged to fight crime by scaling back the state’s bail reforms, which went into effect in 2020, and has singled out Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, saying he’d seek to remove him from office, if elected.

He also applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down a New York gun law and made it easier for people to own guns.

There have been at least three other shootings in other parts of Zeldin’s town, Shirley, this year.

In January, a 34-year-old man was shot and killed about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from Zeldin’s home. In February, a man was wounded, and three houses were struck by gunfire. In August, a couple died of gunshot wounds in a suspected murder-suicide.

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