Cops: NYPD officer killed in wrong-way crash in Dix Hills

Joshua Menzies, 9, holds a photo of his

Joshua Menzies, 9, holds a photo of his mom, Natacha, and dad, NYPD Officer Andre Menzies, who was killed in a wrong-way crash on the Northern State Parkway in Dix Hills. (Nov. 15, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A veteran NYPD officer and father of five on his way home from work was killed early Monday when his car was hit head-on by a suspected drunken driver going the wrong way on the Northern State Parkway, authorities said.

Andre Menzies, 35, was driving to North Babylon from his duty station in Queens when his Honda was struck by a Chevrolet Astro van driven by Michael Bowen, 50, of Brooklyn, authorities said.

Police said there was "a strong smell of alcohol" from Bowen after the collision, which occurred east of Wolf Hill Road, Exit 41, about 12:05 a.m. Menzies had left work about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Menzies, who joined the NYPD in July 2001 and spent the past nine years in Police Service Area Nine, a housing police command in Flushing, "was apparently killed on impact," said Tom Magno, assistant chief of the Dix Hills Fire Department.

The crash closed the eastbound lanes of the Northern State for several hours, officials said.

Investigators said that Bowen was originally driving in the correct direction on the Northern State, but for some unknown reason made a U-turn and headed west in the eastbound lanes.

Bowen was treated for minor injuries at Huntington Hospital after the crash and then taken into police custody. Bowen pleaded not guilty to charges of driving while intoxicated and was ordered held on $350,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond. A toxicology report on his blood-alcohol level was expected Tuesday.

The deadly crash occurred just hours before Mothers Against Drunk Driving opened a memorial exhibition Monday at Roosevelt Field Mall honoring five New York-based police officers - including one from Nassau and one from Suffolk - who were casualties of suspected drunken drivers while on duty.

News of Menzies' death shocked those attending the ceremony for the Roosevelt Field exhibition.

"The irony is just terrible," said memorial organizer Danielle Rella, whose brother, Nassau County police officer Kenneth Baribault, was critically injured in 2008 when a drunken driver struck him during a traffic stop on the Long Island Expressway.

"It's just so unfortunate this had to happen," Rella said, adding "it is really so unfair."

Menzies is survived by his wife, Natacha, 37, a son, Joshua, 9, and four daughters, Victorria Sky, 7, Andrea, 15, Melisa, 14, and Tiffany, 12.

The officer's death brought a strong condemnation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg about drunken driving.

He noted that Menzies' death followed a crash on City Island Saturday that apparently involved an intoxicated driver and left a 17-year-old-girl critically injured.

"We are determined to stop drunken driving now, before the holiday seasons gets into full swing," Bloomberg said. "We don't want any more of this kind of carnage that we saw this weekend."

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the crash that took Menzies' life was a "senseless accident in which a drunken driver drove the wrong way on a highway at night."

At Bowen's arraignment in Central Islip's County Court, a prosecutor Monday described the defendant after the accident as having "watery eyes" and needing to lean against a car for balance.

Prosecutors said in court that Bowen was a citizen of Barbados. His Legal Aid attorney said that Bowen had dual citizenship and served in the U.S. Army for 10 years.

Bowen's family declined to comment.

With Gary Dymski, Sophia Chang, Jennifer Barrios, Stacey Altherr, Alfonso Castillo and John Valenti

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