Addiction led Long Island pharmacy killer to store but you can't blame drugs for what he did
Tuesday, June 21st 2011, 4:00 AM
This man, caught on a security camera in the Haven pharmacy, is believed to be the shooting suspect.
"Please Ring Bell," read a sign next to an intercom.
Along with the bell was a camera that let workers check out anyone seeking entry to the pharmacy on what has until recently been a peaceful stretch of Quentin Road in Marine Park.
The precautions are the legacy of two armed robberies committed by the same man in March and then April. The robber gave some indication of his mental condition when he mistakenly entered the hardware store just before the second stickup. He realized his error and immediately turned around.
After all, he could steal nothing but money in a hardware store. He did not even ask for cash when he strode into the pharmacy to rob it for a second time. He wanted prescription pain pills - OxyContin or Vicodin - and he wanted a lot of them.
"You have seven seconds to fill my shopping bag ...," he told the terrified woman behind the counter.
The owner of the hardware store had followed the robber into the pharmacy and got a taste of terror when the gun swung his way.
"As soon as I walked in he says, 'Lay down!'" the hardware store owner recalled.
His life could have ended on a pharmacy floor that day in April, just like the four who were murdered on Long Island on Father's Day. His brush with death did not cause him to imagine he needed to take extra security measures at his store.
"The problem is drugs," he said.
In mid-May, retired Police Officer Salvatore DelleCave was charged with the two robberies on Quentin Road, along with five others. He is said to have become addicted to pain pills after suffering a serious shoulder injury while chasing armed robbery suspects in 2007.
"A power-of-addiction story," a police spokesman said.
Other "drugstore cowboys" remain at large in the city. Pillheads have caused pharmacy stickups to outnumber bank robberies on Staten Island.
On Long Island, a recent robbery at Haven Drugs in Medford had prompted the owner to install a security camera. It was in place on Father's Day to record the entry of a man in a white baseball cap.
Just like the robber in Brooklyn, this man took pills and left cash. He could have fled, and it would have been just another story of the power of addiction.
Instead, he chose to murder the four people in the store. Addiction may have sent him into the pharmacy, but you can't blame drugs for what he did.
The stills from the surveillance camera are good enough that the killer is almost certain to be caught. Still, the memory of his monstrous crime will haunt other decent souls who work at pharmacies.