Guns of The Hamptons: Maidstone Gun Club, Stray Bullets & Shot Homes

Gun guns truck in the Hamptons cartoon by Dan Rattiner
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Here are some recent stories about gunfire on the East End.

In August, construction workers at a private home on Merchants Path in Wainscott heard whizzing bullets overhead, one of which allegedly hit and lodged in the home’s roof shingles. The workmen ran for cover. A surveillance camera recorded this event, including the bullet hitting the roof.

Three months later, Roxana and Cristinel Pintile, who own the home where the bullet hit, along with six other neighbors, filed a lawsuit against the 97-acre Maidstone Gun Club, a target practice facility located in a deep woods about a mile from Merchants Path.

Their lawsuit cited at least eight occasions when one or another of these homeowners filed complaints about bullets hitting their homes. Subsequent police investigations at those earlier times were inconclusive. And so the homeowners, in this current lawsuit, demanded the gun club be permanently shut down. And State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Modelewski, assigned to the case, ordered the gun club shut pending the lawsuit.

Responding to the suit, the gun club asked that the restraining order be lifted. But after consideration, the judge denied the request.

In the late afternoon of October 9, bullets were fired from a car toward the home of Lee Zeldin in Shirley, a hamlet just to the west of the Hamptons. Zeldin, then a congressman campaigning to become the governor of New York at the time, was not at home. He and his wife were driving home from a campaign rally. However, Zeldin’s twin teenage daughters were at home.

At least one bullet wound up outside the house on a deck some 30 feet from where the daughters were doing their homework on a kitchen table inside. When they heard the shots and people crying out, the two girls ran upstairs, locked themselves in a bathroom and called 911.

The police found two young men crouched down and wounded outside, one under the Zeldins’ porch and the other behind a bush, both of whom were later identified as members of a gang. Ambulances took them to a nearby hospital. None of their wounds, it turned out, were serious.

The next day, Zeldin made a speech describing the incident and praising his daughters for their actions. Zeldin, who lost his gubernatorial bid, is an outspoken opponent of gun rights restrictions, even on assault rifles.

In October, information about a police investigation of the Maidstone Gun Club conducted in late August was filed. As a result of the gun club lawsuit, the police had gone to the homes that were hit in Wainscott, did some tests, and found that the bullet fired into the roof had been fired from the direction of the club from a so-called “assault-style” rifle.

Proceeding from Merchants Path to the club, they found the front gate to the place open and nobody from the club on the premises. Anyone could come in to shoot at the firing range.

The police detectives also revealed that footage from surveillance cameras at the gun club showed that at the time of the gunfire, there were two men on the premises with assault weapons, one an AR-10 and the other an AR-15 modified to military grade.

The men in the footage were seen firing their weapons, but one was having difficulty operating one of the guns.

The detective was able to identify one of the shooters from the video. Soon thereafter, the detective, together with federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents went to this individual’s Westhampton Beach home to speak to him and examine his gun.

However, the resident said he had every right to own such a weapon and they could not come in without a warrant. There was no follow-up.

Lee Zeldin guns shooting images, suspect collage
L. to R.: Suffolk prosecutors released this image of the suspect who allegedly had a gun used in a recent shooting outside Congressman Lee Zeldin’s house in Shirley. R.: Lee Zeldin campaigning for governorAP Photo

By mid-December, 18 members ages 17 to 27 of a gang known as NFL (NFL stands for No Fake Love) had been arrested. Two were accused of firing the weapons used during the drive-by at Zeldin’s house in Shirley: The driver and passenger of a BMW 3 Series sedan that had been one of two stolen from a driveway near the Maidstone Club in East Hampton Village in May.

A nearby overhead surveillance camera had recorded the shooting and showed the license plate of the car with the gun flashes that drove by. Soon it was determined that this car had been stolen by members of that gang. Those they were shooting at were allegedly from a different gang.

Gang members were also charged with six armed robberies, six shootings, a murder in Farmingville, the theft of at least a dozen other expensive automobiles from various communities in the Hamptons, and the kidnapping of seven French bulldog puppies. They were said to be taking orders from other gang members who were in prison.

In early January, investigators back at the gun club determined that the wooden barriers that kept bullets from leaving the property were adequate to resist shotgun, hunting rifle and pistol shots but were no match for a modified AR-15.

In early January, the Town of East Hampton announced they would consider not renewing the latest 30-year recurring lease for the 97-acre gun club when it expires this October. The gun club pays the Town of East Hampton, the owner of the property, $100 a year.

So far, there is no evidence that any gang members sharpened their skills at the Maidstone Gun Club.

If there had been, their doing so would have been caught on the surveillance cameras at the club. But because it is likely that the detectives only reviewed the surveillance video from August 5 at the time the bullet lodged in the Merchants Path homeowner’s roof, reviewing months and months of video would be a daunting project.

And it wouldn’t get anybody anywhere anyway because shooting a privately owned assault rifle at a gun club doesn’t violate the law.

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