Cops: DWI public safety officer kills pedestrian

The attorney for Robert Core, a town employee accused of killing Eddie Cotto by allegedly driving while intoxicated, and Cotto's financee and family discuss the case at the arraignment in Hempstead. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (July 15, 2011)

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An on-duty Hempstead Town public safety officer drove drunk Thursday night in his marked patrol car and killed a jaywalking pedestrian crossing Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow, Nassau authorities said Friday.

Preliminary tests show that Officer Robert W. Core, 42, had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he struck Eddie A. Cotto -- and continued driving with Cotto clinging to the hood and windshield for more than 150 feet before Core stopped and Cotto fell to the pavement, police said.

"I didn't know what to do when he was on the window," said Core, who told police that he drank a 40-ounce Colt 45 malt liquor between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. while eating his meatball hero, court records show.

Cotto, 50, of Lindenhurst, was crossing in the middle of the turnpike when he was hit 40 feet west of Franklin Avenue, near Nassau University Medical Center. Police records say that Cotto was an "elopee" from the hospital -- meaning that he left against medical advice.

Cotto's fiancee, Diane Ware, said Friday he'd gone to the hospital around 3 p.m. Thursday because he "was feeling uneasy, he wasn't feeling right."

Ware said Cotto went to the hospital to get help dealing with stress from a mortgage foreclosure and from the struggle to support his 13-year-old daughter and Ware's four children.

An NUMC spokeswoman declined to comment on Cotto's visit to the hospital.

A nearby store's surveillance video shows a pedestrian crossing north to south who was just a few steps from the south curb when he was struck.

The video shows the vehicle that struck the pedestrian was going at the speed of traffic before the crash.

"From what I understand this individual came out of nowhere," said Lloyd Nadel of Mineola, Core's attorney.

A nearby ambulance crew already at the hospital "actually heard the impact and immediately" went to help Cotto, court records say.

Cotto was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma at the hospital at 11:43 p.m.

Judge Martin J. Massell of First District Court -- who on Friday arraigned Core on charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated -- ordered him jailed on $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail.

Nadel told the judge his client's family could afford a bond only as high as $50,000, but Massell declined to reduce the bail.

A town statement said Core, who lives in Hempstead Village, has been suspended without pay.

At the time of the 11:20 p.m. crash, Core was 20 minutes into his shift and in a town-owned Jeep en route to investigate complaints of youths trespassing at the town-owned Walcott Pool in Levittown, town spokesman Mike Deery said.

Police interviewing Core said he had red, glassy eyes, slurred speech and the odor of alcohol on his breath. Core recorded a 0.17 blood-alcohol content on a preliminary breath test police gave him. The legal limit is .08.

Police are investigating how fast Core was driving, said Nassau police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith. Alcohol analysis is pending of a voluntary blood sample from Core at the hospital, where he'd been brought to treat minor injuries from the crash.

Nadel said Core, of 100 Terrace Ave., is the single father of a 16-year-old boy.

Core earns $70,343 working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift on the 38-member, unarmed public safety force, Deery said.

The force's duties include patrolling town properties. Core has had the job since 2000, Deery said.

Kane Moore, 18, a friend of Core's son and a neighbor, said Core "was a good dude. He worried about his son a lot. He worked a lot."

With Aisha Al-Muslim,

Ali Eaves, Keith Herbert

and John Valenti

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