Jennifer Nelson, of Shirley, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead...

Jennifer Nelson, of Shirley, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

A construction worker saw an SUV hurrying through a Mastic bagel shop parking lot as it struck a teen running across the property last October, he told a jury seated in the attempted murder trial of the woman accused of intentionally striking the boy in retaliation for an attack on her son.

Brian Groskopf said he was stopped at a red light when the vehicle struck the teen, drove over him and then pinned him under the tires a second time as the driver backed up and sped away.

"[The driver] was smirking and took off down the road," Groskopf told the jury in the trial before State Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei in Riverhead. "As fast as she was in, she was out [of the parking lot]."

Groskopf was the first eyewitness of the crash to testify in the trial of Jennifer Nelson, 36, of Shirley, who prosecutors allege ran over 15-year-old William Floyd High School student Jonathan Gamez at 9:40 a.m. on Oct. 7, 2022, because she believed he had been bullying her son.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A construction worker saw an SUV hurrying through a Mastic bagel shop parking lot as it struck a teen running across the property last October, he told a jury seated in the attempted murder trial of the woman accused of intentionally striking the boy.
  • Brian Groskopf said he was stopped at a red light when the vehicle struck the teen, drove over him and then pinned him under the tires a second time as the driver backed up and sped away.
  • Groskopf was the first eyewitness of the crash to testify in the trial of Jennifer Nelson, who prosecutors allege ran over 15-year-old William Floyd High School student Jonathan Gamez because she believed he had been bullying her son.

Cellphone and surveillance video evidence played during the trial showed a group of students throwing punches at Nelson's son outside of a Dunkin' across from the high school shortly after 7 a.m. before about a half dozen of them chased after him. Minutes later, one of the teens could be seen in the video returning with Nelson's son's Adidas Ye Slides, popular footwear designed by the rapper previously known as Kanye West. Nelson arrived soon afterward threatening the students with a knife, telling them their "life is ended," the video showed.

A pair of detectives who testified Monday said that after Nelson drove away from the crash scene she traded in her gray Honda Passport for a black version of the same vehicle at an auto dealership in Valley Stream.

Prosecutors have alleged Nelson traded in her vehicle even though the lease "was not set to expire.” 

A doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital told the jury that the teen struck was treated for a fractured pelvis, broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Dr. Richard Scriven said Gamez was anxious and having trouble breathing after the crash.

Gamez had previously testified that he couldn't move his legs following the crash and was carried to the spot on the grass by classmates who rushed to his aid.

Scriven said Gamez' injuries could not have been suffered from falling several times that morning, as defense attorney Katherine Fernandez has suggested during the trial.

"This is not from falling to the ground," Scriven said of the multiple fractures suffered by the teen. "This is from a tremendous amount of force."

Gamez testified earlier Monday that he was present when another classmate threatened Nelson's son with a knife days earlier. He said the knife incident at a local skate park is what caused more than a dozen William Floyd High School students to gather at Dunkin' for what they thought would be a fight between Nelson's son and the other classmate.

"I was there like everyone else because I wanted to see the fight," Gamez told the jury as he took the stand for a third day, under cross examination from Fernandez.

Fernandez, in a line of questioning that began Thursday and continued for more than three hours, attempted to paint Gamez as being more involved in the attack than he admitted, pressing him on why he did not call police during either knife incident or report the menacing exchanges to school officials.

Fernandez also questioned how Gamez could have seen who struck him while he was pinned under a car and why he failed to tell an officer at the scene who hit him and later that day did not tell a detective he saw her son laughing inside the vehicle, as he testified to Thursday.

"I saw her when she opened the door," Gamez reiterated.

Groskopf would later tell the jury he never saw the woman open the door.

Nelson is charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident with serious injuries.

Prosecutors are expected to call more witnesses Tuesday.

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