A military veteran admitted Monday to injuring a Nassau police officer who was working a New Year's DWI patrol in a drunken-driving crash that so far has left the patrolman unable to return to duty.
Court records show Keith Dillon, 30, of New Hyde Park, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular assault, assault and drunken driving in a plea bargain that will send him to prison for 4 to 12 years.
Officer Willard Gomes remains on the police force, but still is recovering from the Jan. 1, 2018, crash, Nassau police union president James McDermott said Monday.
Gomes used a cane last summer when walking out of Dillon's arraignment, saying the crash had changed his life and there was "no excuse for drinking and driving."
He suffered bleeding on his brain, a broken vertebra in his neck, a shattered elbow, a broken leg, an orbital bone fracture and the loss of several teeth.
Gomes, then 37 and a 13-year police veteran, also said at the time that he was preparing to undergo more surgeries.
Authorities said the crash happened shortly before 2:30 a.m. when Dillon drove his 2014 Dodge Ram onto the center median on Glen Cove Road in Greenvale, before hitting Gomes’ unmarked patrol car head-on. The car hit another vehicle and Gomes became trapped in the wreckage, law enforcement officials said.
Prosecutors alleged Dillon’s blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit after the crash.
Authorities said they found Xanax and two bags that appeared to have cocaine residue in them in Dillon’s pickup. He allegedly told police he’d had six to eight glasses of wine and a couple of whiskey shots at a holiday celebration, and gave conflicting accounts about how long before the crash he had used medical marijuana and Xanax, records show.
The court file also says Dillon reportedly told police he had prescriptions for the two drugs, suffered from multiple sclerosis and had PTSD from his U.S. Coast Guard service.
"The last thing I remember is a bang from the collision … I didn't mean for this to happen," he allegedly also said.
Dillon served in the Coast Guard from 2007 to 2013 and retired as a petty officer second class, according to the defense.
Dillon's attorney, Marc Gann, said his client apologized to Gomes in court Monday, something he said Dillon had wanted to do "ever since the beginning of this case."
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement that Gomes "will never recover from the injuries he received that night" while "simply doing his job and protecting us from drunk drivers."
McDermott said he didn’t believe Dillon’s promised sentence was harsh enough. He could have faced 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count at a trial.
But Gomes, the union official added, is "looking forward to moving on from this chapter in his life."
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder in a prepared statement said: “The Nassau County Police Department stands behind Officer Gomes and hopes that he is able to return to work one day. Numerous injuries and operations have slowed this process and we continue to pray for his recovery.”