Dramatic Getaway Attempt

Crashed stolen van and hid in waterfront shed
A one-man alleged crime wave ended with a crash in this bucolic waterside stand of boxwoods on Shelter Island. Carrie Ann Salvi

    A one-man East Hampton crime spree apparently came to an abrupt end last Thursday morning when police, guns drawn, captured William A. Donnelly, 30, of Montauk after a brief but frantic chase on Shelter Island.
    Responding to a report of a man with a weapon, Shelter Island police came upon Mr. Donnelly on South Ferry Road, driving a brown van he allegedly stole from an Osborne Lane, East Hampton, driveway. Mr. Donnelly attempted a getaway, according to a number of reports.
    “Trying to hide out on Shelter Island is not a good idea,” said Alison Bevilacqua, co-owner of Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill on South Menantic Road. The road, where Mr. Donnelly ended up leading his pursuers, has only one way in and out, she said Friday.
    Mr. Donnelly, sensing he was trapped, reportedly crashed the van into a stand of waterside boxwoods and fled on foot.
    Ms. Bevilacqua said she was “impressed at how quickly the police responded,” as Shelter Island officers, with reinforcements from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and state troopers, as well as two canine search teams, locked down the area and began the search.
    She said police blocked traffic from entering Island Boatyard, where her restaurant is. “They checked every building and room in the compound with dogs, holding big guns and wearing bulletproof vests.” Ms. Bevilacqua said she didn’t believe that Mr. Donnelly had endangered her or her employees.
    Within a half-hour, it was all over, as police found Mr. Donnelly hiding in a shed. Surrounded, he surrendered.
    As police were putting handcuffs on him, they were already searching the van, in which, they said, they found drugs, several guns, and loot from his alleged crime spree. East Hampton Village police were able to confirm that some of the items matched those stolen during a burglary at a house on Barns Lane the previous day, Detective Brian Eldridge told The Star on Friday. Among those items were a Lenovo laptop computer and a Felt bicycle.
    A neighbor provided police with a description of the alleged burglar, and it enabled police to link Mr. Donnelly to the burglary after his arrest, according to a police report.
    “Right now, we’re confirming two different burglaries,” Detective Lt. Chris Anderson of the East Hampton Town police said on Tuesday, “with the possibility of several more.”
    According to Detective Anderson, many of the possible victims are seasonal residents who have not yet returned to the East End, but as the season progresses, he anticipates more victims coming forward.
    At present, “We have more property than we have victims,” he said. He expects the ultimate haul to be worth many thousands of dollars.


A getaway off an island. That's funny!