Passenger in Fatal Dirt Bike Accident Suing Police for $20 Million
HUNTS POINT — Adalberto Gonzalez, the passenger on a dirt bike whose driver was killed in a collision with a police car this month, will sue the NYPD for $20 million in a civil suit claiming the officers involved in the crash acted with criminal negligence, lawyers said Monday.
Gonzalez’s attorney, Peter Ronai, said his client suffered a broken leg as a result of the accident, which he said occurred when a police car traveling at a high speed rammed the dirt bike from behind, sending Gonzalez and the driver, Eddie Fernandez, hurtling toward the pavement.
"They were good, upstanding citizens," Ronai said Monday. “They were on a dirt bike — they don’t deserve to die or be maimed.”
Police said they spotted Gonzalez, 26, driving a dirt bike recklessly in Hunts Point on Aug. 11, but only approached him later, on foot, when he was parked on Randall Avenue.
Gonzalez then tried to flee the officers, but crashed his bike, police said. He then ran to a spot near Randall Avenue and Coster Street and jumped on the back of Fernandez’s bike, cops said.
At that point, a police car allegedly struck the dirt bike from behind.
Fernandez, a 28-year-old Longwood superintendent, died later of blunt impact to the head and neck, according to the Medical Examiner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide.
Gonzalez was arrested at the scene and charged with reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and reckless driving. He was released from jail the following week when his family posted $750 bail, at which time he went to the hospital and was treated for a broken leg, his lawyers said.
Gonzalez, through his lawyers, disputes the NYPD’s depiction of the accident.
Ronai said that the same police cruiser rammed Gonzalez not once but twice — first, when he was parked on his bike outside a storefront on Randall Avenue; then a second time, after he jumped on the back of Fernandez’s bike.
He also said that eyewitness accounts and the injuries both men sustained indicate the police car was traveling quickly — as fast as 55 miles per hour, Ronai suggested — which he said was unwarranted.
The police “chased them like they were robbing a bank,” said Ronai, who described the officers’ behavior that day as an “avalanche of negligence” that led to an unnecessary tragedy.
Ronai noted that officers from the local precinct told community board members in May that it was their policy not to pursue dirt bikers because of the risks involved.
Gonzalez’s defense attorney, Cesar Gonzalez Jr., who is not related to his client, called the police version of events an “outright fabrication” and demanded that cops release video surveillance footage of the accident, which he said police have confiscated.
“There’s no transparency,” said Gonzalez Jr. He also called for a grand jury to determine whether the officers’ actions were “criminal in nature.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to an email about the lawsuit or the lawyers’ description of the accident.
Last week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the two officers involved in the incident had been taken off patrol duty while Internal Affairs investigates the accident.
Gonzalez Jr. said his client is due to return to court on Sept. 12, when he will plead not guilty to all charges. In the meantime, the lawyer said, he advised his client to leave the state and avoid speaking with investigators.
On Monday, Gonzalez Jr. filed a demand with the Bronx district attorney's office asking for all available information about the case, including any video or photos of the accident.
Ronai said his office plans to file the civil suit by Tuesday and that they will also submit a complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of police misconduct.