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Nov 3, 2014 4:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Charges For Flanders Shooting Suspect Upgraded To Attempted Murder

Nov 5, 2014 11:12 AM

The suspect accused of shooting a Flanders man—once in the elbow, once in the back—faced upgraded charges of attempted murder in Suffolk County Criminal Court late Monday afternoon.

Kwame Opoku, 33, of Mastic Beach, pleaded not guilty to first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon charges, all felonies, before Justice William J. Codon. Mr. Opoku was ordered held in the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $250,000 cash bail, or $500,000 bond.

He was originally charged with felony counts of first-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree criminal use of a firearm and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Mr. Opoku was arrested by the Southampton Town Police on October 15, only minutes after area residents reported shots being fired on McKinley Street in Flanders. He has been incarcerated since his arrest, and Mr. Opoku is one of two suspects arrested following the mid-afternoon shooting.

Emmanuel Coleman, 34, of Riverhead was previously charged with first-degree assault, a felony, and authorities said he violated his parole. He was arrested in 2012 in Queens and charged with second-degree assault, a felony, according to State Police records. It is not known if Mr. Coleman served any jail time in relation to that case, or what that assault involved.

Mr. Coleman was remanded with Mr. Opoku on October 15. Due to the severity of the charges, Mr. Opoku’s case was elevated to the Suffolk County Criminal Court and the formal indictment was handed down Monday.

The 36-year-old victim, who was not identified by authorities, was shot twice outside of his home. On Monday, a representative from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said the victim of last month’s shooting was the brother of Mr. Opoku’s girlfriend. Authorities said Mr. Opoku was arguing with the victim through text messages during the day and, at around 3 p.m., Mr. Opoku went to the victim’s home and shot him twice at close range.

A representative from the district attorney’s office said the first shot struck the victim in the elbow, causing him to spin around and get shot in the back. One bullet was recovered, but it was too fragmented to match to a gun, according to officials. Shell casings found at the scene match the caliber of the weapon police found in Mr. Opoku’s possession, however, authorities said.

At arraignment proceedings on October 16, Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson granted orders of protection that were requested by the victim and several unnamed witnesses. Justice Wilson did not read their names into the record after noting that the list included several minors. One minor on the list was related to Mr. Opoku, according to prosecutors.

The victim lives with his mother and sister, Mr. Opoku’s girlfriend. He was airlifted by Suffolk County Police Medevac helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital following the shooting. His current status is not known. He was in critical condition for the first four days after the assault, but hospital officials said this week that they could not provide any additional information regarding his condition.

The DA’s office asked for bail to be set at $300,000 cash or $600,000 bond on Monday.

“Mr. Opoku vigorously denies the facts in this case,” Riverhead attorney Eileen Powers, who is representing Mr. Opoku, told Justice Codon, and asked for a reduced bail amount. “He intends to come back and defend this case.”

Ms. Powers also said she intends to go to trial.

Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo will argue the case for the prosecution, though he was not in court on Monday afternoon.

Ms. Powers will appear on behalf of Mr. Opoku in front of Justice Richard Ambro on Monday, November 24.

Mr. Opoku has a history with the Southampton Town Police Department. In 2011, Mr. Opoku was sentenced to prison for dealing drugs, but that conviction was thrown out in the wake of a scandal in the police department and its now-defunct undercover Street Crimes Unit. He was one of at least seven men arrested by Town Police in 2010 and 2011 who had their convictions vacated at the recommendation of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office in 2012, following the release of information that revealed that one of the town’s undercover officers was addicted to prescription drugs at the time.

Mr. Opoku and at least three others who had their charges dropped have since filed lawsuits against the DA’s office and the police department, alleging wrongful arrest and conviction. The suits accused the officers of conducting warrantless searches, fabricating evidence and providing false testimony that led to Mr. Opoku’s original arrest. The lawsuit against the town is still pending while the one filed against the DA’s office has since been withdrawn.

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