Prosecutor: Wrong-way driver faces manslaughter charges

On Nov. 15, 2010, police say Michael Bowen, On Nov. 15, 2010, police say Michael Bowen, 50, was driving drunk and the wrong way on the Northern State Parkway in Dix Hills when his van collided with a car driven by NYPD Officer Andre Menzies, who was heading to his North Babylon home after work, police said. Menzies was killed. Photo Credit: Steve Silverman

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Drunk and disoriented on the Northern State Parkway after losing his way to Westchester County, Michael Bowen slowed his minivan and made a three-point turn shortly after midnight on Nov. 15 - driving west into oncoming traffic in the roadway's eastbound lanes in Dix Hills, Suffolk prosecutors said Tuesday.

Bowen had been drinking brandy in Brooklyn for almost 10 hours, sending his blood-alcohol level to .26 percent, more than three times the legal limit of .08 percent, before heading for Mount Vernon, prosecutors said.

Between Exits 42 and 41, about a half-mile after starting to drive in the wrong direction without his headlights on, the inebriated Bowen smashed into a car driven by Andre Menzies, 35, of North Babylon - instantly killing the New York City police officer, prosecutors said.

The details of the fatal crash emerged Tuesday as prosecutors announced upgraded charges against Bowen, 50, of Brooklyn.

Wearing a green jail jumpsuit, Bowen did not speak at his arraignment. Through his attorney, he pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment charging him with aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, drunken driving and other charges.

If convicted of the top charge, Bowen faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. County Court Judge Richard Ambro ordered him held on $1-million bond or $500,000 cash bail.

Bowen's attorney, Eric Bernstein of Manhattan, declined to comment.

District Attorney Thomas Spota said as many as 18 people called 911 after seeing Bowen make a three-point turn and drive the wrong way shortly before the fatal crash.

"I have never seen anybody make a turn such as that," Spota said. "Why he would try to make a three-point turn, we really can't say."

Menzies, with nine years in the Police Department, was driving home after a shift at a housing command in Queens. He is survived by his wife, Natacha, and five children.

Tuesday, Natacha Menzies and other family members left court without speaking to reporters.

At a news conference after the arraignment, Spota displayed crash photos that showed that almost the entire left side of Menzies' car had been shorn off in the collision.

Bowen was drinking brandy in Brooklyn from about 2 p.m. on Nov. 14 until he left with plans to head to Mount Vernon, Spota said. Spota said he did not know how many drinks Bowen consumed or where he was when he was drinking.

Bowen may have turned around on the parkway when he realized he wasn't heading toward Mount Vernon, prosecutors said. Witnesses said they saw Bowen's minivan in the midst of making a three-point turn, Spota said.

Then, Bowen began to drive west in the eastbound lanes, prosecutors said. At least two drivers swerved to avoid being hit, prosecutors said.

Just before Bowen's minivan hit Menzies' Honda, Menzies veered to his left. But Bowen cut in the same direction, striking Menzies' car and killing him, prosecutors said.

After the crash, State Police found Bowen glassy-eyed and unsteady on his feet, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco said in court.

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