2009-02-20 / Top Stories

Sergeant-Stabber Had Long, Troubled History

By Howard Schwach

The troubled Far Rockaway man who stabbed a police sergeant in the eye on January 15 had a long history of psychiatric problems, officials say.

Sergeant Timothy Smith, assigned to the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway, responded to a family's call that Neil Pierria was babbling and playing with a set of knives in their apartment on Collier Avenue. When police arrived, officials say, Pierria got up and went into a bedroom.

Smith, Taser gun in hand, knocked on the door of the bedroom and Pierria allegedly came out quickly, stabbing Smith in the eye and injuring two other police officers before he was subdued.

A month after the stabbing, Smith still faces a long, hard recovery and an uncertain future, officials told The Wave.

Doctors had to remove Smith's left eye and stop the bleeding into his brain. He still cannot speak.

Those officials say that the incident once again proves that police officers never know what they face when they go to a job involving what they term as an EDP - an emotionally disturbed person.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who visited Smith in the hospital a number of times, said, "[Smith's injuries] serve as a reminder of how many times police officers go into harm's way to protect the public, often with severe consequences."

By any definition, Perriera was an emotionally disturbed person.

He had been in and out of psychiatric wards for nine years, and police had been called to his homes to subdue him more than ten times since 2001.

He had set small fires, threatened neighbors, and had become aggressive and abusive.

A 2005 court order mandated that he continue to take anti-psychotic medication, but he often went off his meds, officials say.

On January 30, 2001, he stopped taking his anti-psychotic meds and began to act irrationally and violently. He was taken to the hospital for treatment and then released the next day.

On May 24, 2001, he again began acting violently and irrationally and agreed to be taken to the psych ward.

On June 7, 2001, his family reported that he was acting violently in his Far Rockaway home. He was once more taken to St. John's Hospital for evaluation.

On June 22, 2001, his sister called police to say that Perriera turned on the gas stove and threatened to blow everybody up. Police again took him to St. John's for evaluation.

On July 8, 2001, a ranting Perriera worried the family so much that they called police and he was once again taken to the hospital for evaluation and then released.

On July 10, 2001, he became irrational and began to harass neighbors and to set small fires in his apartment. Police again took him to St. John's psych ward for evaluation. He was released the following day.

On March 22, 2002, a New York State Mental Health Warrant was issued for Perriera based on his past problems and he was removed to a state hospital for evaluation and treatment.

There are no records of how long he remained in state custody, but he was free on June 30, 2002, when he was again picked up after his family complained of irrational behavior and once again taken to the hospital for evaluation.

A 2005 mental health review said that Perriera's frequent use of marijuana made him paranoid and delusional.

"When he's off his meds, he has a history of becoming agitated and aggressive in public," the review said.

On December 6, 2003, Perriera was again hospitalized for evaluation.

On October 17, 2008, Perriera reportedly stopped taking his meds and once again became dangerous and irrational.

He was taken into custody for evaluation.

On January 15, 2009 his wife calls police and he stabs Sergeant Smith in the eye.

Perriera has been charged with attempted murder and is being held without bail.

Smith remains in Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he is expected to remain for a few months.

On February 12, more than 300 cops came to St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Far Rockaway to pray for his recovery.

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