PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — A Long Island police officer who was stabbed by a suspect over the weekend remained in critical condition on Monday after doctors had to replace almost all of the blood in his body, officials said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Officer Christopher Racioppo, 31, was still in a fight for his life after he was stabbed in the leg by a suspected drunken driver in Patchogue Saturday night.
“Officer Racioppo is a hero … [his] actions represent the best of the department,” he said during a briefing on the case. “While [Racioppo] has come a long way, he’s not out of the woods yet.”
The 31-year-old officer, who joined the Suffolk County Police Department in January 2018, likely would not be alive if it weren’t for the quick-thinking and decisive actions of his fellow officers.
“These officers are heroes,” Bellone said. “The decisions that were made were all critical in saving this officer’s life, and I want to thank them.”
It was a sentiment that was repeated several times throughout the briefing. Bellone also thanked two good Samaritans — a retired NYPD detective and a United States Marine — who helped at the scene.
Suspect cut through major artery in officer’s leg
The harrowing ordeal began around 10:40 p.m. Saturday when Officer Racioppo noticed a Mercedes driving erratically with no headlights on, according to SCPD officials.
Racioppo tried to pull over the vehicle, but the driver, identified as Jonathan Nunez, crashed into a Nissan at the intersection of South Ocean Avenue and Brook Street, police said.
When Nunez got out of the vehicle, police said he got into a physical altercation with Racioppo in the yard of a home and stabbed him in the leg, slicing through a major artery and vein.
Sgt. Frank Samartino said he was at the precinct house when he heard Racioppo call for help and he immediately headed to the scene.
“I saw Officer Racioppo’s face, and I knew we were in trouble,” Samartino said Monday at the briefing. “I knew I had seconds to get him out of there.”
Another officer applied a tourniquet to Racioppo’s leg and they rushed him to a hospital in a police car instead of waiting for an ambulance.
Samartino said Racioppo was fading in and out of consciousness the entire time.
“At one point in the vehicle we thought we lost Officer Racioppo,” he added.
Officer Racioppo lost nearly all of the blood in his body
Stony Brook University Hospital chief trauma surgeon Dr. James Vosswinkel said uncontrolled bleeding from the artery and vein that were cut would have killed Racioppo within 20 minutes.
Instead, the actions of the officers as well as the trauma doctors and hospital staff put Racioppo in a position where he could make a full recovery, Vosswinkel said.
“We were able to save a lot of muscles in his leg so that the officer will have a recovery and potentially, hopefully a full recovery of the use of his leg,” he said.
However, Vosswinkel also cautioned Racioppo still faces potential complications — some of which could kill him — because he lost so much of his own blood.
“So the officer is still in critical condition in our trauma intensive care unit,” he said. “We unfortunately had to replace his blood volume with other people’s blood … We obviously hope life-threatening complications don’t set in … but when someone’s entire blood volume is no longer his, you can understand the consequences to your body, your immune system.”
Stabbing suspect charged
Nunez, meanwhile, was taken into custody at the scene on Saturday and was charged with aggravated assault upon a police officer, driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, police said. The 25-year-old was also taken to a hospital on Saturday for undisclosed injuries and was expected to be arraigned Monday.
A police official said Nunez has a prior arrest on assault and criminal mischief charges, both of which were domestic in nature.
The driver of the Nissan was also treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.