The suspect in a fatal Nov. 9 hit-and-run dragged an Adelphi University honors student through a parking lot before she fell and he ran her over, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
Daniel Coppolo of Deer Park then fled the scene, driving the wrong way on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, Singas said Sunday at a news conference at Nassau police headquarters.
Coppolo, 31, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment in the incident that left Taranjit Parmar, 18, dead.
“An innocent young woman lost her life and the future was stolen from her and her family,” Singas said.
Coppolo pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead Sunday.
Judge Eileen Goggin set bail at $1 million bond or $600,000 cash — more than the prosecutors had asked for — citing previous contacts with police and the seriousness of the charges.
Copollo’s attorney, Lawrence V. Carrà of Mineola, told Goggin his client had been on psychiatric medical leave from the New York City Fire Department’s communications office for three months. Carrà said his client suffers from manic depression and does not always take his medication. He requested mental health treatment for Copollo.
Parmar’s parents, Ranjarit and Kulwinder Parmar of Levittown, attended the news conference announcing Coppolo’s arrest. Her father thanked investigators for their work. They also attended Coppolo’s arraignment but did not speak, referring questions to their attorney, Brian R. Gunn of Garden City.
“The family is looking for closure and justice,” Gunn said. “They want this defendant held accountable for his actions. He caused the death of their daughter.”
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at the news conference that Coppolo was driving a red 2013 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck when he pulled onto Hempstead Turnpike and got into a fender bender with Parmar, who was driving a Jeep.
Both drivers moved into a parking lot. Parmar was on the phone with her mother when she approached Coppolo’s pickup to exchange insurance information. She was still on the phone with her mother when she was allegedly hit by Coppolo. She cried out “Oh no, stop,” and the phone call was disconnected, family members said.
Parmar was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where she died hours later from severe head injuries, officials said. She was an honors dental student at Adelphi who was days away from her 19th birthday and in her second year of the dental program.
Coppolo faces up to 26 years in prison if convicted of all the charges, Singas said at the news conference. He was arrested last year on a charge of driving under the influence, authorities said.
Gunn said the high bail was appropriate “given the serious nature of the charges as well as the relatively young defendant’s past criminal history.”
Investigators did not have far to look once they determined Coppolo was their suspect: He was being held in the Nassau County jail on an unrelated robbery charge, Nassau Police Lt. Detective Stephen Fitzpatrick said.
Coppolo was arrested on Nov. 13 after he allegedly shoplifted from a Target in Westbury and threatened an employee with a knife, authorities said.
Detectives determined Coppolo was a suspect in Parmar’s death through witness testimony, video from nearby cameras, and tips from the public. They also scoured motor vehicle records for a red late-model pickup truck, Fitzpatrick said. Detectives identified Coppolo’s Tacoma by decals and lights on the vehicle, and obtained a court order to impound and search the truck on Nov. 16. The truck was still in the Target parking lot when it was seized by investigators.
When Coppolo’s father bailed him out, he was then charged in the death of Parmar, Carra said.
“On Dec. 23, Daniel was released from the jail. We were there to arrest him,” Fitzpatrick said.
With Ted Phillips