New York City police sergeant accused of throwing cooler at motorcyclist, causing deadly crash
A man fleeing New York City police officers on a motorcycle died Wednesday after a sergeant hurled a plastic picnic cooler at his head from close range, causing a violent crash, authorities said.
The sergeant, Erik Duran, was suspended without pay just hours after the death of Eric Duprey, 30, in the University Heights section of the Bronx, police said.
Surveillance video viewed by The Associated Press showed Duprey driving the gas-powered 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 a red object — the picnic cooler — and throw it. Duprey is struck hard. He loses control, then 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.
Duprey was pronounced dead at the scene minutes after the crash, which happened around 5:30 p.m.
Police said Duprey tried to flee on a friend’s motorcycle after he was caught selling drugs to an undercover police officer. The sergeant was standing on the sidewalk as part of the “buy-and-bust” operation carried out by the Bronx Narcotics Unit. Police declined to specify what drugs Duprey was accused of selling.
Reached by phone, Duprey’s mother, Gretchen Soto, told The Associated Press the police narrative was “all lies,” insisting her son was not selling drugs or trying to evade officers. She said she was on a video call with him from Puerto Rico on Wednesday when suddenly the screen went dark.
“He wasn’t fleeing. He wasn’t fleeing. He was just on the motorcycle talking to me on the video chat. And he passed by that place when all of a sudden the call cut out,” she said in Spanish.
She said Duprey lived in the Bronx, worked as a delivery driver and had three children, ages 3, 5 and 9.
“They left three fatherless babies,” Soto said. “I’m going to get justice.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which has jurisdiction to probe deaths involving police, is investigating. The NYPD said it is cooperating.
“The NYPD is committed to ensuring that there will be a full, thorough, and transparent investigation of this incident to determine the facts and to take the appropriate steps forward,” the department said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with Duran’s union. The Daily News first reported the incident.
Duran, a 13-year veteran of the department, joined the Bronx Narcotics Unit last September. 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.
Duran’s disciplinary record includes a substantiated complaint last year for abusing his authority during a stop, according to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.