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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Film Vividly Recounts 1993 LIRR Massacre

The just-released Long Island Railroad Massacre is a compelling documentary about one of the most notorious crimes in Nassau’s history, and a must-see if you lived here in the early 1990s.

Charles Minn, its director, will screen the film on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m., at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Huntington, and preside over a question-and-answer session afterwards. The date has significance. Twenty years earlier, on Dec. 7, 1993, six commuters were killed and 19 other people were wounded by a gun-wielding Colin Ferguson while traveling eastbound on the LIRR between the New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue stations. Investigation Discovery (ID), a cable channel, is airing the film as Terror on a Train on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m. ID is carried on Cablevision’s Channel 171 and FiOS’s Channel 123.

I saw the documentary at a Manhattan theater this month, and didn’t know until afterwards that two of the LIRR commuters wounded by Ferguson, and interviewed for the film, were seated behind me: Robert Giugliano and John Forni. Giugliano provides a few of Long Island Railroad Massacre’s most riveting scenes, describing the last moments of a passenger seated near him on the ill-fated 5:33 p.m. train to Hicksville from Penn Station, and disclosing how it took him years to recover emotionally from Ferguson’s rampage. Meanwhile, Forni, in a surprisingly calm manner, explains what it is like to get shot multiple times and live to tell the tale.

Other testimonials stay with you. Arlene and Jacob Locicero, the parents of the late Amy Locicero Federici, talk movingly about how they donated their 27-year-old daughter’s vital organs when it became clear she would not survive. The Lociceros have over the past two decades been activists in the field of organ donation, counseling families who have just lost loved ones. Mi-Won Kim, the sister of the late Mi Kyung Kim, a 27-year-old who was murdered on that same train, bears additional witness to the pain Ferguson inflicted on dozens of families, as do Joyce and Karen Gorycki, the widow and daughter, respectively, of the late James Gorycki. He was 51 at the time of his death. Neither the family of 30-year-old Maria Magtoto nor that of 24-year-old Richard Nettleton, two of the six people who died in the LIRR massacre, could be reached by the filmmakers.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), widow of the then-52-year-old Dennis McCarthy, another Ferguson victim, is the name most long-time Nassau residents associate with the tragedy. She is featured prominently in the documentary, recounting what life was like for her, her husband and their son, Kevin, who was severely injured that night by a gunshot wound to the head, before Dec. 7, 1993. Rep. McCarthy’s views on gun control sound the same today as they did during her first successful run for Congress in 1996. If you want to hear something new, listen closely when Kevin McCarthy talks about the grandchildren his father never lived to meet.

The law-and-order-related interviews offer valuable insights, as well, and complement the archival footage of Ferguson’s 1995 trial in Mineola, where he served as his own attorney. Ronald Kuby, Ferguson’s counsel at one point, was interviewed and offers vivid anecdotes about the judicial proceedings. So, too, does then-Nassau County assistant district attorney George Peck, who prosecuted Ferguson and is today a judge.

Brian Parpan, a retired Nassau County homicide detective, gives details about the gruesome crime scene, and what he saw that night was something he’ll always remember, Parpan told Minn. Parpan also notes he was the only witness called by Ferguson at the trial. Given that Parpan was not on the train that night, and could not vouch for Ferguson’s alibi — that an unknown white man had reached into Ferguson’s bag, stole his gun, and started shooting everyone — it was a futile gesture, if the goal was to prove Ferguson’s innocence.

Ferguson is in an upstate prison and won’t be eligible for parole until after 2300. That’s not a typographical error; his first parole hearing is set for nearly two centuries from now.

Long Island Railroad Massacre affirms that, while Ferguson’s victims are missed and remembered fondly, the person convicted of killing them has been largely forgotten. More on the film is at www.lirrmassacre.com

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net