Manorville, NY – A 22-month old child is safe today, thanks to quick-thinking Suffolk County Police Officer Joe Goss. His quick actions helped rescue the toddler as their intoxicated mother was too impaired to stop her own vehicle on a New York Expressway.
Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol Officer Joe Goss was on patrol about 60 miles east of Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway on December 29th, 2016. At around 5:30 PM Officer Goss noticed a driver, later identified as 37-year-old Maria Lagatta of Manorville, driving erratically in the eastbound lane. Lagatta drove about 20 mph and after being engaged by Officer Goss and refused to stop her vehicle.
NBC New York reports Officer Joe Goss pulled up alongside Lagatta in an attempt to get her to pull over. “I roll down my window, and the motorist rolled down her window as well. I told her to pull over, and with the window down she told me, ‘I can’t.'” Goss immediately suspected she was high on drugs. In the back seat, a 22-month-old toddler. “When I saw the baby, I gasped and literally started doing [what he learned to do] to maneuver in highway patrol to slow traffic down to make it safer…I’m a dad myself so as soon as I saw the baby in the back seat I knew there was-you know the first thing we do as a police officer is we scan the car for threats and the biggest threat I saw was the safety of that child.”
Lagatta slowed her vehicle down to about 5mph and Goss sped past her, parked on the shoulder and positioned himself to reach in to the open window of the moving vehicle. “I didn’t Superman into the car or anything like that. I’m pretty tall so I was able to lean up. All I had to do was move one of my feet up, like a pool shot move. I was able to lean in, and so once I got my hand on it, her hand was on the shifter as well, so we just forced it right into park.”
“All your training says, don’t go into a moving car, and I didn’t like the idea of it, but when the window of opportunity was there, and her speed is so slow, I jumped at it,” said Goss. “I’m fortunate it worked out the way it did.” No one was hurt during the maneuver and Goss wants to make sure all know the “unsung hero of this.” There was a good Samaritan he said, driving slowly behind them with their hazard lights on, which slowed traffic down and ensured Lagatta’s vehicle wouldn’t be hit during the stop.
Lagatta was arrested and charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, aggravated DWI with a child passenger 15 years or younger and endangering the welfare of a child. Child Protective Services was notified and law enforcement released Lagatta’s 22-month-old daughter to a relative.