Suffolk to probe Yaphank skeet range
Newsday February 21, 2011

Suffolk County officials said Monday they would conduct an investigation of a controversial trap and skeet range to determine whether the Yaphank facility should be shut down in the aftermath of the arrest of the range's operator.

The operator, Mark Wroobel of Smithtown, who has a license agreement with the county to run the facility, is among nine men charged with selling illegal assault weapons to undercover investigators, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced last week.

Suffolk's announcement came on the same day Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) joined civic activists and Brookhaven Town officials at the range to call on County Executive Steve Levy and parks Commissioner Joseph Montuori to pull the plug on the facility.

The range - Suffolk Trap Skeet & Sporting Clays - is located at Southaven Park and for several years has been the source of complaints from neighbors and environmental groups about noise and lead pollution. Wroobel denies the complaints.

Browning said Wroobel's arrest creates the "appearance that the lease of Suffolk County property could be involved with the distribution of illegal firearms," and the county should suspend its agreement with Wroobel until his court case is over.

Montuori and county attorney Christine Malafi will conduct Suffolk's investigation, Levy spokesman Dan Aug said.

Wroobel was arrested in connection with his Massapequa business, Hunter Sports. He faces two counts of unlawful activity with a dangerous weapon, a felony, and is due to appear in First District Court in Hempstead on Friday.  Wroobel declined to address Browning's claim that his agreement with the county should be terminated, saying only that he is entitled to due process. "There is something called presumption of innocence," he said.

Suffolk County sued the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission over the commission's contention that the Yaphank shooting range constitutes development within the core pine barrens area. That suit is in State Supreme Court, said John Pavacic, the commission's executive director.

Bill Raab, the director of Commack-based Sportsmen's Association for Firearms Education, attended Monday's event to argue that Wroobel is "innocent until proven guilty."

The heart of the issue, he said, is "people moved next to a range and were shocked when there was shooting."