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New York City police sergeant who hurled plastic cooler at fleeing motorcyclist charged in his death

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police sergeant who hurled a plastic cooler at a man fleeing officers on a motorcycle, causing a crash that killed the rider, was charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault.

Erik Duran pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday in the Bronx and made bail, which was set at $150,000. Dozens of police officers came to court in his support.

Duran, 37, was suspended shortly after the death of Eric Duprey and was later placed on modified duty.

The indictment was announced by state Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which investigates all deaths at the hands of police officers.

Duprey, 30, was pronounced dead within minutes of being struck on a Bronx sidewalk last August. Police said Duprey had tried to flee on a friend’s motorcycle after he was caught selling drugs to an undercover police officer. Duprey’s mother, Gretchen Soto, contested that account, saying her son was not selling drugs at the time and was on a video call with her shortly before his death.

Duran had been standing on the sidewalk as part of the “buy-and-bust” operation carried out by the Bronx Narcotics Unit.

Surveillance video showed Duprey driving the motorcycle on a sidewalk toward a group of people, including the sergeant, who was not in uniform. As he approached, the video shows Duran pick up the red picnic cooler and throw it. Duprey is struck, loses control, and is tossed toward a tree as the motorcycle veers into the street. The bike smashes into a metal barricade before coming to rest against a parked car.

After the arraignment, an attorney for Duran said that Duprey drove a motorcycle at 40 mph (64 kph) on a crowded sidewalk, putting bystanders and officers in grave danger.

“Sergeant Duran made a split-second decision to prevent serious injury or death to those citizens and officers,” attorney John D’Alessandro said. “This indictment sends a clear message to society and every law enforcement officer in this state: In today’s New York, the streets belong to the criminals.”

Duprey had three young children and worked as a delivery driver. Attorney Jonathan Roberts released a statement from the family saying that seeing Duran in handcuffs was little consolation for relatives struggling to understand how an “officer could behave so recklessly as to kill a young man who posed no threat whatsoever.”

Duran, a 13-year veteran of the department, joined the Bronx Narcotics Unit in 2022. He has been recognized by the department dozens of times for what it deems excellent and meritorious police service, according to a police personnel database.

According to Duran’s disciplinary record, there’s a substantiated complaint in 2022 for abusing his authority during a stop, according to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The indictment charges Duran with second-degree manslaughter, first- and second-degree assault and criminally negligent homicide.

Duran’s next court date is April 18.

Asked about Duran’s case, New York Mayor Eric Adams said it was up to the attorney general to handle. But “that’s not a policy we use, throwing a cooler,” noted Adams, a Democrat and retired police captain.

Article Topic Follows: AP-National

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