A uniformed Town of Hempstead public safety officer has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving charges after allegedly killing a pedestrian he struck with his patrol vehicle in East Meadow late Thursday night.
Nassau County police said Robert Core was driving a marked Town of Hempstead Public Safety Patrol SUV eastbound on Hempstead Turnpike while responding to a call of kids trespassing at a pool in Levittown when he hit the victim, who was crossing the road in front of Nassau University Medical Center at 11:24 p.m.
“As he stopped, our victim fell off the hood of the car onto the pavement,” said Detective Lt. Kevin Smith, a police spokesman.
The victim, 50-year-old Eddie Albert Cotto of Lindenhurst, was on the hood of the Jeep Cherokee until the vehicle stopped about a 100 feet away.
“It’s hard to say why he took so long to stop,” Smith added.
A volunteer Levittown ambulance crew was leaving NUMC when they heard the crash, responded to the scene and took the victim to the hospital, where he died shortly later.
Officers who responded to the scene said Core, a public safety officer for 11 years earning $70,000 annually, had slurred speech, glassy eyes and failed sobriety tests.
Core’s attorney, Lloyd Nadel, said he was told Cotto had checked himself out of the hospital earlier in the evening against medical advice and was crossing the street in the middle of the block and not at a crosswalk.
“The pedestrian appeared unexpectedly in the middle of the roadway,” Nadel said.
Shelley Lotenberg, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said she could not comment on whether Cotto had been a patient, nor the contention raised by Core’s attorney that he had checked himself out, citing privacy restrictions.
A judge set bail for Core, 42, of Hempstead, at $100,000 cash or bond. Core faces up to seven years in prison and is due back in court Tuesday.
Police said Core had no prior record or disciplinary issues other than a red-light camera violation. He had just started his 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift when the crash occurred, but police said it was unclear where he was allegedly drinking.
Public safety officers are hired to patrol town facilities, but do not carry weapons and are not considered police officers, Smith said.
Town Supervisor Kate Murray issued a statement extending “profound condolences to the friends and family of the victim.”
-With Associated Press