A Brooklyn man was fleeing police when he drove the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway service road in North Hills and smashed his car head-on into another vehicle, killing his pregnant girlfriend on Sunday afternoon, Nassau police said.
Courtney Corbett, 28, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who authorities said was speeding as he fled an officer pursuing the vehicle in connection with a shoplifting incident at a Manhasset shopping center, was arrested shortly after the Sunday crash and charged with second-degree manslaughter, two counts of third-degree assault and reckless driving.
The crash killed Demytra Gibbs, 27, identified by police as Corbett’s girlfriend, who was about 6 months pregnant and sitting in the front seat of Corbett’s 2013 Hyundai Sonata.
“He put them all in harm’s way,” said Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, the commanding officer of the Nassau Police Homicide squad, adding that Corbett’s alleged actions were “extremely dangerous.”
Both Gibbs and Corbett — who had cuts on his hand and arm — were wearing seat belts, police said. Corbett was arrested at the scene and Gibbs was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, police said.
Khadisah Greene, 23, a backseat passenger identified by police as a friend of the couple, was not wearing a seat belt and suffered neck and back injuries.
The 44-year-old man who was driving a 2007 Audi, which Corbett’s vehicle struck, was treated at a hospital for back pain. His sons — ages 13 and 14 — were passengers in the Audi, but were uninjured, police said.
Corbett, a janitor for the New York City Housing Authority who prosecutors said was twice convicted of robbery, was ordered held on a $200,000 cash bail or bond at his arraignment Monday in First District Court in Hempstead.
Nassau Assistant District Attorney Patrick Brand in court called Corbett a “prior violent offender,” citing the robbery convictions.
Recounting the aftermath of the crash for the judge, Brand said: “The medical personnel tried to save the baby, who was about six months along.”
Police said more charges were possible.
Brendan Brosh, spokesman for the district attorney’s office, would only say the investigation is “ongoing.”
Corbett’s court-appointed attorney declined to comment after his arraignment. Family members of Corbett could not be reached for comment.
The chain of events leading to the crash began at 3:37 p.m., when a security guard at the Sephora beauty store on Northern Boulevard in Manhasset called 911 and reported that two women suspected of shoplifting in the store had fled in a black Hyundai with a man driving, police said.
Fitzpatrick, speaking at a news briefing at police headquarters in Mineola Monday, said it appeared that Gibbs and Greene also presented fraudulent credit cards inside the mall while Corbett waited outside.
A Third Precinct officer heard the description of the vehicle over the police radio and spotted the Hyundai, driven by Corbett, making a left turn onto Shelter Rock Road. The officer activated his patrol car’s lights and sirens in order to pull the car over, but Corbett instead sped and “drove recklessly” by “swerving” around other vehicles as the Hyundai traveled south on Shelter Rock, according to police.
The Hyundai then made a right — traveling westbound — into the eastbound lanes of traffic on the service road of the LIE, police said.
The officer stopped following the Hyundai after an approximately mile-and-a-half-long pursuit that ended on the service road, police said.
“At that point, the officer disengaged and discontinued trying to stop this vehicle,” said Fitzpatrick.
The Hyundai then drove the wrong way onto the exit 35 off-ramp of the Long Island Expressway, hitting the Audi.
Asked about the pursuing officer’s actions, Fitzpatrick called them “appropriate.”
“He attempted to stop a vehicle leaving a crime scene,” Fitzpatrick said. “When the actions of Courtney became dangerous, he discontinued . . . The officer’s actions were correct.”
Fitzpatrick said police were unsure how fast the Hyundai was traveling but investigators were seeking a search warrants for the vehicle and combing the area for surveillance and other evidence.
With William Murphy