After signing a deposition on Jan. 31 that states she witnessed a former Southampton Village cop and another man "fighting and choking each other out" at a bar, a Southampton woman said Sunday that she has since learned she was wrong about the second man's identity.
Retired police sergeant Darren Gagnon, 51, of Shirley, was charged that night with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after multiple witnesses said he punched Craig Cardillo, 42, of Bridgehampton, in the face and head three times. While other witnesses stated that Gagnon struck first and Cardillo was on the floor and unconscious before he could fight back, Deanna Annis originally told police a different story.
“Even though I was there and I saw what I thought I saw, it turned out to be a little different than my interpretation,” Annis told Patch
Annis said she saw a man put Gagnon in a headlock and she had assumed it was Cardillo, when, in fact, it was someone else who was breaking up the fight.
“They were quite far away, on the other end of the bar, behind the partition,” she said.
But Annis said the rest of her statement to police is accurate — that she witnessed Cardillo walking up and down the length of the bar saying to no one in particular things like, "I'm gonna f--- him up, smash his f------ head in."
According to police and witness depositions, it was no secret at the bar inside Bobby Van's restaurant that Cardillo and Gagnon had been arguing. Depositions state that Gagnon was repeatedly bothering a golf course superintendent about phone calls that went unreturned, and that Cardillo got involved, telling Gagnon to go away.
Witnesses told police that Gagnon was acting obnoxious and yelling.
The two men argued, and at one point the bartender took Cardillo outside to "cool off," according to witness statements.
Annis said she thought Cardillo was being told to leave. "I said to my friend who was sitting next to me, 'Well I’m glad that’s over,'" she recalled.
"I still will stand by the facts that Mr. Cardillo was inappropriate and cursing ..." she said.
Not long after Cardillo returned from outside and apologized to other patrons, Gagnon approached again and punched Cardillo — knocking him unconscious — then struck him two more times, witnesses said.
According to police, Gagnon said afterward, "I thought he was about to take a swing at me so I punched him first."
Cardillo told a police detective that he does not recall being struck. He recalled telling Gagnon to "go back and sit on his stool and knock it off," and the next thing he knew he was on the ground.
Cardillo was released from Southampton Hospital two days later. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Annis said she was out at Bobby Van's with a friend, who she declined to name, during the evening of the incident. Cardillo, who was acquainted with her friend, bought them drinks, Annis told police.
Annis knew Gagnon before that night, and knew he was a former cop. “I saw Darren come in, he sat two seats down from me, and I did not see him start anything ...” she said. "I saw him buy a box in the football pool and minding his own business.”
Annis said that while everyone else seemed to be saying Gagnon was entirely at fault, she felt she had to stand up for him after witnessing Cardillo's behavior inside the bar. But she said she plans to contact police to revise her deposition, to state that it was not Cardillo she saw grappling with Gagnon.
“Unfortunately, that’s why people make bad witnesses, because I just assumed it was the man who was yelling and saying all these weird things to no one in particular," Annis said. "That doesn’t happen often inside Bobby Van's.”
James McNally, of Water Mill, stated in his deposition that he was one of the people who pulled Gagnon off Cardillo. McNally said Gagnon "started challenging everyone and that's when 911 was called."