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Jan 7, 2020 9:26 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County Homicide Detectives Investigating Death Following Riverhead Altercation

Jan 8, 2020 10:25 AM



As Suffolk County Police homicide detectives investigate whether injuries that a man suffered during a fight in Riverhead on January 2 led to his death three days later, his brother vowed to continue to ask questions until answers are provided and the assailant is brought to justice.

The Homicide Squad is investigating the events surrounding the altercation, which occurred on West Main Street in Riverhead on January 2. Wayne Sapiane, 65 — the brother of WLNG radio personality Gary Sapiane — told police afterward that he’d been struck in the head, according to a press release from Suffolk County Police. Although police wouldn’t release the exact location of the fight, or even the time of day it occurred, the victim’s brother said it had to happen in broad daylight.

“The hospital called me at 4:30 in the afternoon,” he said Wednesday.

Southampton Town Police and Riverhead Town Police both responded to the incident. A spokesperson for Riverhead Town Police said Southampton Town handled the case.

But Southampton Town Police officials would provide no information about the fight. The victim’s brother, a veteran newscaster, said he was asked to refrain from doing a story about the case.

“Homicide said they might have some leads, and they didnt want me to do a story on Monday,” he said.

Two days later, however, there’s still nothing new to report, said the newsman who had the onerous responsibility of reporting his family’s tragedy on air. It was, he said, “a rough one.”

While police remained mum about the fight and Wayne Sapiane’s death, Southampton Town Police did provide an arrest report detailing an arrest on January 1, at 6:56 p.m., in which he was charged with third-degree criminal trespass in Hampton Bays, based on a complaint originating from an incident at the 7-Eleven. His brother believes the arrest is unrelated to the fight the next day.

After the January 2 fight in Riverhead, Mr. Sapiane was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and later to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he died on January 5, police said. He suffered traumatic brain injury, his brother noted.

The victim was described as homeless, but staying in Riverside.

Troubled by alcohol addiction, “he wasn’t a bad guy,’ his brother said. “He was an excellent musician, a guitar player. People used to call him ‘The White Jimi Hendrix.’”

An autopsy will be performed by the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death.

Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to contact Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

In the meantime, Gary Sapiane said he’s not going to stop asking questions and pushing for information about his brother’s death. “Somebody has got to know something somewhere,” he said.

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