Stranger Than Fiction: Top Five Hamptons Police Blotter Stories of 2019

Hamptons Police Department officer flexing bicep with 2019 tattoo
Photo: Chad Zuber/123RF

Our weekly Hamptons Police Blotter has long been a favorite section for Dan’s Papers and readers who devour a feast of fantastical tales and hijinks from the files of our local Hamptons Police Department. With 2019 coming to an end, we’re taking a look back at your five favorite entries from the past 12 months. It’s a strange world out there on the beat.

CCTV footage of thief in East Hampton
CCTV footage of thief in East Hampton, Photo: acceptphoto, kantver, Iakov Kalinin/123RF

One of the first crimes reported in 2019 was also one of the Blotter’s biggest stories of the year. The Hamptons Police Department remains on the hunt for a thief who stole cash and items worth a total of at least $42 million from a car parked in East Hampton that week. The treasure trove, pulled from the trunk, center console and floor of a relatively unassuming vintage Mercedes-Benz, included $8 million in cash and $2 million in Swiss bearer bonds, along with a antique Fabergé egg worth at least $9.6 million, and an original Stradivarius violin worth $16 million. Police confirm the items reported stolen were indeed in the car and could clearly be seen in footage from a nearby security camera, which caught the thief in action. Almost one year later, the perpetrator has still not been identified.

Finn Squalocibo arrested outside Shagwong in Montauk
Finn Squalocibo arrested outside Shagwong, Photo: lightfieldstudios, Volodymyr Melnyk/123RF, Oliver Peterson

In April, Hamptons PD was criticized for arresting a local big wave surfer Finn Squalocibo for his role in the death of an immature great white shark off Montauk over the weekend. Squalocibo was paddling out past the breakers near Ditch Plains beach on a Friday morning when the 6-foot predator got hold of his arm. He was able to break free safely, only tearing his thick wetsuit, but the beast went back for a second bite, taking a jagged piece of Squalocibo’s fiberglass board in the process.

Later, the shark was found washed up dead below the bluffs, apparently due to mortal wounds it received while trying to swallow the man’s sharp surfboard. A necropsy revealed the surfer’s name on the board fragment, giving police solid proof of his guilt in killing the endangered animal. Months later, in November, Squalocibo was sentenced to a year in prison and 18 months of community service, despite a major outcry from community members who argued he was only trying to survive the shark’s attack.

Meanwhile, the case has led local environmentalists and animal advocates to seek legislation banning fiberglass surfboards, which they deem “too dangerous for attacking sharks.” The Hamptons Municipal Board will rule on the matter before summer 2020.

Hand snatching Hamptons piping plover
Photo: Raymond Hennessy, gongzstudio/123RF

Hamptons Police Department and East End Fish & Wildlife Protectorate agents arrested tech billionaire and summer homeowner Benedict Avianos in June after they learned he had illegally transported a colony of nesting piping plovers onto the beach in front of his oceanfront mansion.

Avianos hired a crew to collect at least two dozen of the birds and their eggs—which are protected as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act—from a neighboring beach in Southampton’s estate section, and moved them to the dunes and sands directly in front of his home. He then notified local authorities about the nesting birds, hoping they would close the beach to the public, keeping it free of unwanted visitors.

At the time of his arrest, Avianos complained, “Is it a crime to want my private property to actually be private? The local government and our Trustees are the guilty ones—not me!” Hamptons District Attorney Gary Granthaler is seeking the steepest punishment, including jail time instead of fines, since money is no object to the billionaire. He was freed on $15,000 bail and is still awaiting trial and sentencing.

Man proposing to woman who is screaming in terror at flash mob behind them
A flash mob marriage proposal went terribly wrong in Sag Harbor, Photo: Wiesław Jarek, Antonio Guillem, lightfieldstudios/123RF

It certainly wasn’t the biggest crime of 2019, but Blotter fans enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude while reading about the mayhem following a man’s grand but outdated romantic gesture. Unfortunately, his girlfriend’s until-then-hidden panic disorder revealed itself in the worst way as the man and his would-be betrothed neared Long Wharf at the north end of town.

Hundreds of paid and volunteer pedestrians froze, briefly creating an eerie scene before The Black Eyed Peas hit “I Gotta Feeling” began playing loudly and the crowd broke into a synchronized dance. “The lady’s face went deathly pale as soon as we all froze,” one flash mob dancer recalled. “We thought she’d smile and realize what was happening once we started moving, but things got worse from there.”

Police reports confirm that the woman [name withheld] “showed signs of serious distress” as the music kicked in, and her boyfriend tore off his clothes to reveal a tuxedo hidden beneath. She began hyperventilating and attempting to push her way through the undulating, gyrating and jumping crowd of dancers, knocking several people to the ground. She then started screaming and punching people, including her shocked boyfriend.

After police restrained the terrified woman and loaded her onto an ambulance, her boyfriend wept openly, apologizing to the injured dancers. “He said he didn’t expect her reaction to be like it was,” a witness said, adding, “I’d say that was obvious and the understatement of the year.”

Teacup Yorkie in bald eagle's nest
Lana in the eagle’s nest, Photo: 123RF

HPD Fish & Game wardens eased hysteria around a reported flying dog in Hampton Bays this July after concluding people were actually seeing a bald eagle carrying a teacup Yorkie in its talons as it flew over area homes. The story, however, was not as terrible as it sounds—the 2-year-old Yorkie, named Lana, and the eagle, who they named Eagalus, were actually friends,” HPD Fish & Game Warden Brent Smithers explained. “The pair had enjoyed quite a bit of cavorting and play in Lana’s backyard, her owners tell us, and it seems Eagalus just wanted to take the dog for a ride.”

While Lana was safe, the eagle brought her to its nest high atop a cell tower some 90 feet above the ground in Sears Bellows County Park, leading police to mount a complex rescue effort involving a drone, a jar of pickled herring and a trampoline. Lana is now back at home, but she’s no longer permitted to socialize with her feathered friend.

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