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Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Police officer David Castellano and sergeant Eric Panni receive the March Cop of the Month award in Bayside

Three officers and one community member were recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty at the Bayside-based 111th Precinct.

On April 3, Captain John Hall, the precinct’s new commanding officer, commended officers Ryan Bonti and David Castellano and sergeant Eric Panni for making standout arrests in February and March. School crossing guard Patricia McGuirk was also recognized for her dedicated community service.

According to the captain, Bonti, who is assigned to the precinct’s Anti-Crime Unit, was on duty on Feb. 18 at around 4 a.m. when he responded to a 911 call of two males observed breaking into a U.S. Postal Service mailbox at Springfield Boulevard and Kingsbury Avenue.

When Bonti arrived to the scene, he observed one of the perpetrators with a large quantity of mail and a string in his hand: “a pretty good clue” that the suspect was mail fishing. In the act, thieves looking to steal mail will attach objects dipped in a sticky substance to a string, drop them into a mailbox and “fish” the mail out.

After a brief pursuit on foot, Bonti cuffed both perpetrators involved in the theft. One of the perpetrators was also a known gang member, the commanding officer noted.

“[Mail fishing] is a big issue. It’s a burgeoning issue in Queens North and it tends to happen towards the end of the month,” Hall said. “The checks found in their possession had approximately $3,000 in value; but this incident probably would have resulted in several grand larcenies throughout the city, depending on where they cashed these checks.”

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Police officer David Castellano and sergeant Eric Panni, recipients of the March Cop of Month Award, were working the day shift on March 1 when they received a report of a knifepoint robbery at the Great Wall Restaurant at 200th Street and 32nd Avenue. The suspect in question brandished a knife and demanded an employee open the cash register. He then grabbed $180 in cash and fled the scene in a car.

About an hour later, the officers observed an individual matching the suspect’s description speeding in his vehicle on 28th Avenue and 202 Street. After a car stop, they identified him as the perpetrator and arrested him at the scene. The suspect was identified by authorities as 27-year-old Christopher Weiss of Whitestone.

“It was pretty good heads-up policing and good police work to keep looking for a perp an hour after an incident had actually occurred,” Hall said. “This is the kind of tenacity and work ethic we want from our police officers.”

Finally, a community service award was given to school crossing guard Patricia McGuirk.

On March 13, McGuirk was at her post at Francis Lewis Boulevard and 53rd Avenue near P.S. 162 following a nor’easter when she was seen shoveling slush from a crosswalk so that students could cross safely. The moment was captured on camera by a bystander, who shared the moment via Twitter.

The commanding officer took note of the act.

“This is not something that we ask our school crossing guards to do, but it’s something that many of them take on themselves,” Hall said. “It’s out of a commitment for the safety of our kids.”

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