DOWNTOWN — An annual pre-Passover event meant to strengthen ties between the NYPD and the city's Jewish community turned contentious Wednesday when a rabbi questioned Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about a horrific hit-run crash in Williamsburg that killed a young Hasidic couple and their unborn son.
Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, demanded the city's top cop explain why Julio Acevedo, 44, was let out of jail and wasn't stripped of his driver's license after a DWI arrest weeks before Sunday when he allegedly plowed into the livery cab carrying pregnant Raizy Glauber and her husband, Nachman Glauber.
"He was caught before in drunken driving and now, unfortunately, he has killed," Niederman said to Kelly during the NYPD's annual pre-Passover security briefing at One Police Plaza. "How can we strengthen that the justice system working with the police department that this guy should never had the ability to drive a car in public and kill such [a] wonderful family?"
After the press conference, Niederman asked, "How is it possible a person like this walks the streets?"
The rabbi said Thursday that he was not angry with the police or Kelly but was frustrated with the judicial system for allowing Acevedo to drive again after his DWI arrest.
While the NYPD makes drunk driving arrests, it does not decide who gets released on bail, or whether a person's driver's license is suspended or revoked.
Acevedo was arrested on drunk driving charges — with a blood alcohol level of .13, more than the legal limit of .08 — after a road rage incident involving a taxi driver on Feb. 17, sources said. He was released the following day without bail. Acevedo was allowed to keep his license pending the outcome of the trial.
"He was released, which is not that unusual, pretty much standard in cases like that," Kelly said at a press conference after the Passover briefing. "So that is pretty much standard practice. I don't see anything unusual."
Kelly added that police have been turning up the heat in their search for Acevedo, who has been promising in media interviews and through conversations with friends and family that he would turn himself in to authorities since Sunday.
Cops have also been in contact with Acevedo's friend, Derrick Hamilton, who told the NYPD Acevedo intends to turn himself in Wednesday.
"[Hamilton] said [Acevedo] wants to turn himself in and that he was going to do it he believed today, with an attorney," Kelly said. "No location was given and no time was given."
Kelly added that police are not taking Acevedo at his word that he plans to turn himself in. He added that they have been in touch with one of Acevedo's friends, but have not spoken to Acevedo or any lawyer representing him directly.
"We don't know if this a game or what," Kelly told reporters Wednesday. "We are actively looking for him. We are not waiting for him to turn himself in."
Kelly also shot down Acevedo's claims that he was fleeing from gunfire at the time of the crash.
"There are no reports of gunshots in the area at that time," Kelly said. "There were reports in Brooklyn North, which is the borough command for us far away from that location and not anywhere near the time of the accident."
Kelly's comments came as Bronx prosecutors revealed they have no plans to pursue charges against the woman who owned the vehicle that Acevedo was allegedly driving at the time of the crash.
Takia Walker, 29, of The Bronx, was arrested after the accident on charges of insurance fraud, The Bronx District Attorney's office confirmed Wednesday.
Kelly said that does not mean charges have been dropped and that she could still face prosecution.
"As more information comes forward, perhaps that case resurfaces," he said.