NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll is brushing off concerns that Mauro Zonzini, a Director of the New Rochelle Police Foundation may have deputized himself to engage in a police manhunt while armed with two fully-loaded handguns.
In 2008, police in Rye, NY were in the midst of a city-wide mobilization, canvassing neighborhoods looking for a pair of burglary suspects. The effort included ground forces and an aviation unit from the Westchester County Police Department.
Zonzini was stopped shortly after midnight on September 5, 2008 after the aviation unit reported a man on a motorcycle, riding without a helmet, driving erratically in the area of the Rye-Mamaroneck border.
When police stopped him and demanded identification, Zonzini produced a drivers license, a pistol permit license, a New Rochelle Police Foundation Shield and a City of New Rochelle Identification Card with an image of a New Rochelle Police Department Patch next to an image of Zonzini.
Police accused Zonzini of attempting to impersonate a police officer and informed him he was being placed under arrest.
As police prepared to frisk Zonzini, he informed officers that he was armed. Police found two loaded handguns, one in his pants pocket and another in a hip holster.
Both firearms were determined to be licensed but Zonzini did not have a full carry pistol permit.
In 2009, in a separate but related proceeding in Westchester County Court, Zonzini's pistol permit was revoked and he was ordered to surrender all firearms licensed under the permit.
Court records in the Rye case were sealed by Rye City Court Judge Richard Runes on October 7, 2008.
Zonzini, a New Rochelle-based contractor with close ties to Commissioner Carroll, has denied all of the allegations made by the Rye Police Department.
The incident only recently came to light as part of an ongoing investigation into the New Rochelle Police Foundation by Talk of the Sound.
Despite the seal, Talk of the Sound was able to obtain numerous records related to the case. They show that Zonzini was initially charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a Class C Violent Felony.
The weapons charge was subsequently reduced to Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree and ultimately reduced to a traffic violation.
Zonzini plead guilty in Rye City Court to "riding a motorcycle without a helmet" and paid a $50 fine.
The Westchester County Attorney was notified of the weapons charge on September 8, 2008 by Rye Police and subsequently prevailed in an effort to revoke Zonzini's pistol permit on February 3, 2009 despite the reduced charge.
Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll later admitted that the City ID and Shield caused problems for Zonzini.
"They didn't understand," said Carroll. "There may have been some confusion over why he had this Foundation Shield and ID card."
Zonzini said that but for carrying the ID Card and Shield he might not have been arrested.
Talk of the Sound recently documented the Commissioner's long-standing practice of distributing City of New Rochelle Identification Cards and Gold Shield badges. The ID cards include an image of the New Rochelle Police Department patch and contain proximity technology which allows for swipe-card access to a locked door at police headquarters with access to sensitive areas of the building.
Carroll told Talk of the Sound in a recent interview that the Foundation had discontinued the practice of distributing badges three years ago because some police departments were "confused" by the badges.
Carroll denied that the Rye Police Department was among those departments confused by the ID Card and Shield.
Despite the problems in Rye, and elsewhere, and the change in policy, Foundation Directors were not asked to return the Shields. Foundation Directors continue to receive the City of New Rochelle Identification Cards as part of their participation in the Foundation.
Carroll has dismissed any concerns that distributing dozens of swipe card IDs and Shields to civilians might represent a security risk.
"We have no issues with it," said Carroll. "All these people are upstanding citizens that are vetted before they are put on the foundation, put through a questionnaire, their backgrounds are checked, so we're comfortable with that."
Zonzini, who said the swipe-cards were initiated by Police Commissioner Carroll, found them to be unncessary because "someone is always going through the door" or "the door was open".
"I've never used it", said Zonzini. "I don't how it works."
Zonzini has served on the Foundation for 15 years. He has also been a long-time member of the New Rochelle Police Advisory Board, mostly recently serving as Vice President.
Zonzini said he turned in his City ID Card and Foundation Shield to Carroll when he resigned from both positions two weeks ago.
Police Commissioner Carroll was notified that Talk of the Sound was investigating the New Rochelle Police Foundation two weeks ago.
This article is the second in a series.