An NYPD officer is out on bail after driving drunk and killing a pedestrian and injuring three others in Brooklyn over the weekend. No matter who you are, when you get behind the wheel you should never be under the influence. Driving while under the influence can change your life and the lives of others in the blink of an eye. Always exercise good judgement and when in doubt call a designated driver or a cab home.
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Bystanders corralled a drunken off-duty cop after his speeding SUV killed a Brooklyn pedestrian and horribly injured three of his college pals in a gruesome wreck, cops and eyewitnesses said.
Officer Nicholas Batka’s vehicle was seen swerving in the seconds before impact. His runaway SUV tore the leg off one victim and left another impaled on a fence, witnesses said.
“The EMTs had to get a saw to remove the man impaled on the railing,” said witness Jaminah Kang, 35. “Another man (looked) like he took a chain saw to the knee.”
The inebriated second-year cop flashed his badge and slipped into his SUV’s passenger’s seat about 3 a.m. Saturday as the mangled victims writhed in agony on a bloodstained sidewalk in Williamsburg.
A cell phone video captured a man in a red shirt wagging a menacing finger at Batka, keeping the SUV door shut tight and the off-duty cop pinned inside.
“Don’t let him get out!” someone else shouted. “He’s going to run away!”
The sloshed cop was trapped inside the SUV — on the driver’s side by a utility pole he crashed into and on the passenger side by the enraged onlookers.
A 21-year-old man died at Bellevue Hospital after Batka lost control and the gray 2012 SUV Dodge Durango careened off Bedford Ave. just after making a right-hand turn from N. Eighth St.
Prosecutors identified the victim as Andrew Esquivel in charging documents, along with three survivors of the late night crash.
Sophia Tabachoun, 20, was listed in stable condition, while Divya Menezes, 23, was hospitalized at Bellevue in critical condition. She underwent surgery late Saturday after breaking both legs in the crash, officials said.
James Balchaunas, 24, was also hurt, but his condition was not immediately known.
Batka was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, three counts of assault, driving while intoxicated, driving with impaired ability and driving on a sidewalk.
In a white T-shirt and blue jeans, he appeared somber with his head down at his arraignment late Saturday night in Brooklyn Criminal Court. He posted $300,000 bond, and was released. A judge ordered his driving license suspended.
Witnesses described a nightmarish scene of chaos and carnage in the darkness once the SUV jumped the curb and plowed into the group walking together along the sidewalk.
“I ran over and this girl’s leg was in half,” said Ryan Carpenter, 27, who was heading home when he spied the bloody crash scene.
“I took my shirt off and tried to stop her from bleeding while trying to calm her. She kept screaming.”
At least three of the victims were Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates living in Williamsburg and headed for home after getting off the L train, said the sister of one victim.
“Help! Help! Help!” one anguished victim is heard howling during a chaotic six-minute video. “I don’t want to lose my leg! Help!”
An employee from the Bedford Gourmet Food store across the street rushed over with ice and towels.
“I didn’t know what to do,” said the store worker, who declined to give his name. “Everyone panicked. (The driver) was trying to back out, too, and kept going into the building. People were holding the driver from leaving.”
The shocking crash occurred just four hours before Batka was due to start a 7 a.m. shift with the Manhattan Transit Task Force following two days off, cops said.
Batka, 28, a former city correction officer, was arrested at the scene and suspended from the force, NYPD Inspector Scott Shanley told reporters at the accident site.
The officer refused to take a Breathalyzer test, sources told the Daily News. After denying he had been behind the wheel, he then asked to speak with his union rep from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, prosecutors said.
Some other friends walking with the four victims escaped unscathed when the SUV missed them by inches.
“The other two friends were literally one step ahead of them, so they didn’t get hit,” said eyewitness Kang, who called 911. “It was unreal. It was like an episode of TV come to life.
“I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing.”
Police sources echoed the stories of witnesses, reporting that the force of the impact led investigators to believe Batka was speeding before jumping the curb.
According to witnesses, the drunken cop first attempted to throw the SUV in reverse after the vehicle crashed — but the car instead kept lurching forward, slamming into a townhouse stoop.
Batka, who joined the NYPD in January 2015, was listed in stable condition, police said.
Batka’s aunt and uncle said there were never any indications that the young cop had a problem with alcohol — and they appeared shocked by word of his arrest.
“I know a lot of people who shouldn’t be cops … that have the wrong attitude, but Nick is mellow Jell-O,” said his uncle Walter Leonick, a retired NYPD officer. “I never worried about him doing anything wrong.”
Batka took guardianship of his niece last year when his older brother died of a heart attack, and spent time caring for his mother. His brother, just 35 years old, keeled over during a Christmas party.
Leonick knew immediately that the Saturday accident was a bad situation, saying “He’s in a lot of trouble.”