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Accidental Fire Alarm Apparently Leads To Hempstead Arrest

A false alarm has a homeless man in hot water, charged with a Felony by Hempstead Village Police.

Gregory Kaalund, 68, was dragged into Nassau County District Court for his arraignment Thursday after police ran his name and discovered a two-year-old warrant for his arrest.

Kaalund failed to answer a ticket in 2022. Back then, he lived in the low-income Woods Edge garden apartments, a subsidized housing project on Jerusalem Avenue, Hempstead. He got a ticket on March 3, 2022, after he apologized for accidentally flipping a switch on the fire alarm, a slip that wreaked havoc across Hempstead.

A mistake, he said. He was sorry.

In Hempstead, they call that a confession.

Hempstead Village Police took Kaalund’s ID and address info. 4 hours later, they were knocking on his apartment door at 110 Jerusalem Avenue, court records show.

Kaalund shrugged it off. He had bigger things to worry about. On his Hempstead ticket date, Kaalund was a no-show.

This is not a parking ticket. The charge is serious — a Class E Felony under Section 240.55 of New York’s Penal Law. This 68-year-old man could go to prison for 4 years, if he’s convicted.

But his case was adjourned. A week later, it was adjourned again. When he wasn’t around for the 3rd adjournment, Judge Lisa Petrocelli issued a bench warrant.

Now, it’s executed. Kaalund was Case #13 on the Nassau County District Court’s August 24, 2023, calendar. He stood before Judge Geoffrey Prime in a gleaming white Tyvek jumpsuit and prison slip-ons, his public defender (courtesy of taxpayers) at his side.

His plea: Not Guilty.

Police quote Kaalund himself in court papers. In a sworn affidavit, a Nassau County Police Detective claims Kaaland confessed, quoting the man’s own words to Hempstead police: “Yeah, I pulled the fire alarm.”

Police do not say in court filings that Kaalund did it on purpose. They say he’s not authorized “to intentionally activate the pull station falsely reporting an incident.” But they never say he pulled the alarm intentionally.

Which could be fatal. For them. Because the law that forms the basis for Kaaland’s Felony charge, NY Penal Law 240.55, requires that alarm be pulled “knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless”. It does not apply to people who accidentally activate it.

Kaalund’s court-appointed counsel pointed this out. His client did not “intentionally activate” the fire alarm, he said. Kaalund was released with conditions.

Kaalund’s next court date in Nassau County is August 31. In Queens, he has two active shoplifting cases. The juggling could be complicated.

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