The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Precinct in Cop Drunk Driving Scandal Braces For NYPD Wrath

By Murray Weiss | March 15, 2012 1:22pm
File photo of a NYPD patrol car.
File photo of a NYPD patrol car.
View Full Caption

BROOKLYN — Cops in the 75th Precinct in East New York, already reeling from the murder of Officer Peter Figoski and the aftermath of a boozy fundraiser for his family that left one colleague arrested and four more on desk duty, are bracing for a wholesale clear-out of the beleaguered command.

Two NYPD lieutenants and two sergeants were stripped of their guns and shields after an on-duty cop — drunk on Jack Daniels and in uniform — crashed his police cruiser into a Brooklyn light pole, DNAinfo has learned.

The light pole toppled onto a parked car that — of all things — belonged to a relative of an Internal Affairs cop.

The four supervisory modifications are expected to be the start of a round of transfers of cops out of the East New York precinct and other nearby station houses by an irate Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, according to "On The Inside" sources.

"There will be a lot of collateral damage," one top cop declared.

"Everyone has been told to prepare for wholesale transfers to be coming down," another source said.

The incident is particularly galling for Kelly since it came on the heels of an embarrassing tax screw-up in a major fundraising drive for Figoski’s family that he personally spearheaded with the NYC Police Foundation. DNAinfo reported on the tax glitch just a day before the drunken crash.

Hours of high-definition video taken inside the Lindenwood Diner and seized by Internal Affairs shows all the action, sources said, including the drinking and comings-and-going of the revelers at the well-intentioned affair that ended in scandal at 4:10 a.m. on Feb. 28.

At several points, the film captured so-called "crash cop" Christopher Morris clearly downing drinks poured from a Jack Daniels bottle, sources told DNAinfo.

Morris, who was driving back to the Sutter Avenue station house to finish his shift when he allegedly crashed, was arrested on drunk driving charges, suspended from the force and sent immediately to the NYPD rehab "farm" upstate.

Placed on modified assignment were:

• Lt. Paul McMahon, a 17-year veteran, who was the desk officer that evening. McMahon faces disciplinary action for allegedly sending Morris to a nearby hospital for evaluation before waiting for a duty captain to respond to the station house.

• Lt. Bill Leahy, a 28-year veteran and former Marine with an unblemished record. He was off-duty at the Lindenwood, but cameras caught him having a drink with Morris, sources said. The NYPD alleges he should have known Morris, an Iraq war veteran, was on-duty at the time.

• Sgt. Nathan Mole was also off-duty at the party. He allegedly summoned an on-duty patrol car to the restaurant around the time of Morris' crash to take another intoxicated off-duty cop away rather than let him get behind the wheel of his own car. The move effectively took a patrol car out of service for nearly an hour.

• Sgt. Greg Ostrowski, 39, 14-year veteran, was the on-duty patrol supervisor who responded to the crash scene. Ostrowski allegedly saw a wobbly, glassy-eyed Morris and brought him to the station house to seek counsel from the desk lieutenant. Ostrowski failed to ask Morris to take a Breathalyzer test, as is required under recently enacted procedures.

Investigators have other video showing someone jumping out of the passenger seat of Morris’s wrecked patrol car and fleeing. That person has yet to be identified.

Officer Figoski, 47, was shot and killed responding to a botched home-invasion robbery in December.

Figoski, a 22-year veteran, was a divorced dad who had worked the overnight shift in gritty East New York his entire career to allow himself as much time as possible to spend raising his four daughters during the day.

His execution-style murder prompted a flood of tears from New Yorkers, whose hearts and wallets opened for his family. The fundraiser at the Lindenwood Diner, an eatery also known for the collection of mobsters who hung out there over the years, was the first major get-together organized by men and women who knew Figoski and worked with him every day.

According to “On The Inside” sources, as many as 300 cops — most from the 75th Precinct and adjoining station houses — paid $40 apiece to attended the late-night fundraiser with cops trailing in and out at various times.

"This was cops helping cops, not for a tax deduction, just for commemoration for one another," another source explained.

Videotapes show Morris arriving initially at the Lindenwood at 9 p.m. on Feb. 27, sources said.

He was wearing a long coat over his NYPD uniform and was due to work the midnight shift, manning the switchboard.

It is not clear how long he stayed during his first stop or whether he drank alcohol.

But shortly before 3 a.m., he told his lieutenant that "was going out to meal" and wound up back at the Lindenwood Diner, sources said.

At one point, video captured Morris holding a large plastic cup into which a bartender poured a handsome measure of Jack Daniels.

"There is no mistaking even the label on the bottle…the video quality like this should be in every camera around the city," said one person who has viewed the tapes.

Morris then headed over to a round table near the front of the diner where he joined Lt. Leahy and several others.

Leahy was "enjoying some camaraderie after a friend was murdered in cold blood," a source familiar with the lieutenant said. "He was trying to show support and comfort."

Morris stayed at least an hour, according to the video.

At around 4 a.m., he left the diner, climbed behind the wheel of his police cruiser and headed back to the 75th Precinct, sources said.

Sgt. Ostrowski responded to the scene and took the unsteady Morris, smelling of alcohol, to the 75th Precinct station house. He told Lt. McMahon that he suspected Morris was drinking, but was concerned also that the airbags deployed and he might have been injured.

The lieutenant decided to send Morris to the hospital to ensure that he was not physically injured and called a duty captain to respond to the hospital.

Word quickly spread through the ranks about the post-celebration debacle, bringing swarms of Internal Affairs officers into East New York.

And top brass awoke to the shock of another scandal.



Officer Peter Figoski was killed in the line of duty in December.
Officer Peter Figoski was killed in the line of duty in December.
View Full Caption