An off-duty Suffolk police officer accused of driving the wrong way early Thursday on Sunrise Highway in West Islip before fatally striking another motorist was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail at his arraignment Tuesday, officials said.
Robert Scheuerer, 24, an officer in the Third Precinct, was arraigned in his hospital room at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore on a felony charge of reckless endangerment, said Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Marc Lindemann.
William Petrillo, Scheuerer’s defense attorney, said his client pleaded not guilty and is in the intensive care unit with serious injuries. Petrillo said the bail has been paid.
He declined to comment on police allegations that Scheuerer drove the wrong way on Sunrise Highway before striking the other vehicle, a 2016 Ford van, which investigators said then caught fire. Police have not released the van driver’s identity.
“Right now we are conducting our own comprehensive, thorough investigation,” said Petrillo, of Garden City. He added that the “thoughts and prayers” of the officer and his family go out to the victim’s family.
Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said toxicology tests to determine if Scheuerer was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash are still being processed.
At 4:38 a.m. Thursday, Scheuerer was driving east on the westbound Sunrise Highway in a 2000 Nissan Pathfinder when he struck the oncoming van between the Higbie Lane and Route 231 overpasses and exits 40 and 39, police said.
Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said Tuesday the driver of the van has been tentatively identified but police are working to make a positive identification using DNA.
Scheuerer, who has been on the force for a year, was suspended without pay hours after the crash, police said. His next court date is scheduled for Nov. 17.
Details of the arraignment were based on accounts from both the district attorney’s office and Petrillo.
Acting Suffolk County Court Judge David Morris denied reporters access to the bedside arraignment — court proceedings that by state law are open to the public — citing The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal statute designed to keep medical records confidential.
Suffolk courts spokeswoman Mary Porter later clarified in an email: “I understand that the press has access to arraignments and other public court proceedings.”