HUNTS POINT — Two police officers whose car allegedly struck a dirt bike Saturday, killing the driver, have been taken off patrol duty while Internal Affairs investigates the accident, according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“The officers are not on patrol,” he said Thursday. “I wouldn't say it’s administrative leave, but they're not on patrol.”
Eddie Fernandez, 28, a Longwood superintendent, was launched from his bike when a police car allegedly rear-ended it during a pursuit that ended at Randall Avenue and Coster Street. He died of blunt impact to the head and neck, according to the medical examiner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide.
His passenger, Adalberto Gonzalez, 26, prompted the chase by driving recklessly on a different bike, then hopping onto the back of Fernandez’s unregistered Honda dirt bike, police said.
Gonzalez, who suffered minor injuries, was arrested at the scene and charged with reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and reckless driving, according to the criminal complaint.
Police from the 41st Precinct, which covers Longwood and Hunts Point, initially spotted Gonzalez riding the wrong way down a one-way street and on a sidewalk, but only approached him on foot later when they saw he was parked, according to police and the complaint.
Gonzalez then ran down Randall Avenue and jumped on the back of Fernandez’s bike, police said. As the pair took off, a separate cop car allegedly struck the bike from behind, according to police.
Police would not say where that cruiser came from, but photos of the scene show a police car from the 49th Precinct, which covers the area around Morris Park in the northeast Bronx.
Soon after the incident, residents began to accuse the officers of causing Fernandez’s death.
In a video provided to DNAinfo New York, a bystander at the scene of the accident shouts at an officer crouched over Fernandez, whose hands appear behind his back as he lays face-up on the sidewalk.
The bystander yells, “We saw you, pal, you hit him with the car.”
The officer appears to point toward a metal crosswalk-light pole that the dirt bike faces and says, “He hit this. He hit the pole. Look at the bike.”
At a rally for the bikers Monday night, a man who declined to give his name, out of fear of upsetting the police, said he came upon the scene shortly after the collision Saturday.
He said he witnessed the police officers unpin Fernandez and his bike from under the front of the police cruiser, then move Fernandez to the sidewalk and reposition the bike to face the pole.
The police did not immediately respond to an email asking about the witness’s account.
At the rally Monday, several dirt bikers acknowledged that street riding is both illegal and dangerous, but said that when police pursue them, the risks for riders and bystanders are only heightened.
A Harlem biker who gave only his street name, Al Capone, said that even though Fernandez’s bike was not street legal, the police still should not have chased him.
“The law don’t say you can kill a man for riding a dirt bike,” he said.
Additional reporting by Aidan Gardiner.