The driver who on Monday struck an unmarked Nassau squad car head-on, leaving an officer with serious injuries, told police he drank six to eight glasses of wine and multiple shots of Jameson whiskey before the crash, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Keith Dillon, 29, a boat mechanic and U.S. Coast Guard veteran from New Hyde Park, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to charges of second-degree vehicular assault, second-degree assault, driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the early Monday crash that injured police Officer Willard Gomes, a 12-year veteran of the force who was working on DWI enforcement during the New Year’s holiday.
Dillon, who told police he drank the wine and whiskey during a party at the Crescent Beach Club in Bayville and also had beer and shots at three other establishments, registered a .17 percent partial reading — more than twice the state’s legal limit of .08 for alcohol consumption for drivers — on a preliminary breath test administered at the scene, senior Nassau Assistant District Attorney Stefanie Palma said during the arraignment.
Dillon also told police he had taken medical marijuana and Xanax before the crash, Palma said. Inside Dillon’s pickup truck, Palma said, investigators found Xanax and two bags containing what authorities believe is cocaine residue.
According to court papers, the substance that appears to be cocaine was in two glassine envelopes inside a pack of cigarettes in the map pocket of the driver’s side door of Dillon’s truck.
More chemical tests are pending and Palma told the court it’s “likely the charges will be upgraded.”
Dillon was driving his 2014 Dodge truck at an “extremely high rate of speed” south on Glen Cove Road in Greenvale about 2:25 a.m. Monday when it crossed the double line, according to court papers. Dillon’s truck “mounted the center median” and struck Gomes’ patrol car head-on, dragging it backward about 50 feet and causing it to strike a Mercedes SUV, Palma said. The occupants of the Mercedes were not hurt.
Gomes was “trapped” inside the vehicle, Palma said, and it took fellow officers about 30 minutes to extricate him. Gomes suffered “very serious injuries,” Palma said, including bleeding on his brain, a fractured C5 vertebrae, broken left arm and leg, broken left orbital and the loss of multiple teeth.
Palma said one of Gomes’ elbows was shattered — an injury the doctor treating him described as one of the worst he had ever seen.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement Tuesday that he and County Executive Laura Curran had visited Gomes and his family at the hospital Monday “to again extend our prayers and support.”
Gomes “remains in very serious condition and will have a long and painful recovery,” Ryder said.
Ryder said Dillon would be “held accountable” by the district attorney’s office and added: “Day in and day out, our dedicated police officers place themselves at risk to ensure the public remains safe. I respectfully request all of our residents keep Officer Gomes in their thoughts and prayers.”
Dillon, who was hospitalized with an ankle injury after the crash and was arraigned as he lay in his hospital bed Tuesday afternoon at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, was wearing a brace on his left leg and had a large cut above his lip.
Dillon told Nassau District Court Judge Paul Meli that he was a boat mechanic who rented a one-bedroom apartment and lived alone. He has a daughter who is about 2 and lives with her mother, Dillon’s ex-fiance, Dillon told the judge.
Dillon was represented by a Legal Aid Society attorney who requested bail be set at no higher than $25,000. The defense attorney said Dillon was in the Coast Guard from 2007 to 2013 and retired as a second-class petty officer and received merit awards during his years of service.
According to court papers, Dillon was convicted of DWI from a Dec. 24, 2014 arrest in Southampton.
Meli suspended Dillon’s driver’s license and set bail at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash.
Dillon is due back in court on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the New York State trooper who was hit by a vehicle last month as he helped a motorist who had broken down on an entrance ramp to the Sagtikos Parkway is in stable but guarded condition, officials said Tuesday.
Four days after the Dec. 18 accident and an operation, Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher was listed in critical but stable condition.