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NYPD Officer Fired, Others Lose Badges After Fatal Williamsburg Crash: NYPD

By Gwynne Hogan | July 20, 2016 2:15pm
 MIT student Andrew Esquivel was killed by an off-duty rookie NYPD officer in what prosecutors are saying was a drunk driving accident.
MIT student Andrew Esquivel was killed by an off-duty rookie NYPD officer in what prosecutors are saying was a drunk driving accident.
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WILLIAMSBURG — An off-duty rookie police officer accused of killing an MIT student and injuring four others in a drunk-driving crash over the weekend was fired Wednesday, police said.

Former member of the NYPD's Manhattan Transit Task force Nicholas Batka, 28, who had joined the force in January 2015, was still in a probationary period on the morning of the fatal collision, police said.

"There's no department trial or anything," a police spokeswoman said. "He's fired."

Batka is not the only one facing punishment after the crash.

Two of his fellow officers, Jeremy Rodriguez and Emmanuel Collado, were stripped of their guns and badges for failing to prevent the rookie officer from getting behind the wheel, according to police.

Batka — a Greenpoint resident whose Facebook page prominently features him posing in front of beers and shots, according to the the New York Post — was supposed to start work at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.

But at around 3:10 a.m., Batka was drunk behind the wheel of his gray 2012 Dodge Durango turning from North Eighth Street onto Bedford Avenue, when he veered up onto the sidewalk, ramming into four college students, according to police and prosecutors.

A witness watched Batka switch from the driver's seat to the passenger side of the car, then try to get out of the car while other witnesses blocked him from leaving, prosecutors said. 

When an NYPD lieutenant got to the scene, Batka had bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath, though he refused a breathalyzer test, prosecutors said.

Andrew Esquivel, 21, a California native studying at MIT and interning at Appboy in Manhattan, was pronounced dead at 6:40 a.m., according to prosecutors. Esquivel's family declined to comment for this story.

Friends and family set up a Facebook page to commemorate Esquivelorganized a vigil for him on Friday night in his hometown Healdsburg, Calif., and flooded it with posts of pictures and memories about the 

"Drew was an outstanding wrestler, great captain and the best teammate," wrote friend Thomas Layte‎ on the page. "He always had a smile on his face and made practice a enjoyable and fun. I will miss his charisma, humor, dedication, never give up attitude, his leadership qualities and most importantly, the person he is.

"I love you Drew and will never forget the positive impact you have on me."

Three others were also injured in the crash, at least two of whom were friends with Esquivel, according to their Facebook accounts. They were rushed to the hospital with severe trauma to their limbs, prosecutors said.

"There were some heroic efforts done by the patrol cops there," said Capt. Peter Rose, commanding officer of the 94th Precinct. "When they got there, one of the [girl's legs] was severely mangled. [An officer] put a tourniquet on her leg.

"It probably saved her life," he said.

Sophia Tabachoun, 20, had severe leg trauma and was in stable condition, prosecutors said.

Divya Menezes, 23, an NYU student, suffered severe trauma to both legs and one arm, and a pelvic fracture, prosecutors said. She was still listed in critical condition over the weekend, though no more immediate information was available.

"The NYU community is saddened by the news of this terrible automobile crash and its tragic toll," university spokesman John Beckman wrote. "We are reaching out to her to offer support. Our thoughts are with her and her family, as are our wishes for a speedy recovery to full health."

Another friend, James Balchunas, 24, also suffered severe trauma to one leg in the crash, prosecutors said.

Batka was charged with manslaughter, operating a car under the influence, assault, criminally negligent homicide and driving on a sidewalk.

Earlier this week, he posted $300,000 bail and was released from custody, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.

He's due back in court on Thursday, records show.