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Cop's widow urges stiffer DWI penalties

Natacha Menzies is comforted following a memorial service

Natacha Menzies is comforted following a memorial service for her husband, NYPD officer Andre Menzies, at Grace Community Christian Ministries in Amityville Sunday. (Dec. 12, 2010) Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Natacha Menzies sat silently through the hearty, sometimes-exultant memorial for her late husband. She let another share the letter she penned following his death in a Nov. 15 traffic collision.

But when yesterday's service at Grace Community Christian Ministries wrapped up, the widow of NYPD Officer Andre Menzies said there was one topic she needed to speak about.

The Dix Hills wreck that killed Andre Menzies as he traveled the Northern State Parkway to his North Babylon home came at the hands of a suspected drunken, wrong-way driver. Natacha Menzies plans to aid proponents of stiffer DWI penalties for repeat offenders and those who cause injury or death. "The minute you decide to drink and get in that vehicle, it's intentional. You become a weapon," she said outside the Amityville church where more than 60 mourners gathered. "Too many people are dying."

She has already grabbed the attention of Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone. Speaking to the crowd at the start of the memorial, Bellone said Natacha Menzies "wants to make sure Andre and his life are never forgotten."

Those who knew Andre Menzies said that is very unlikely. Menzies, 35, grew up in Richmond Hill, the eldest of four siblings.

He played basketball through high school and college, graduating with a bachelor's degree from New York Institute of Technology.He joined the NYPD in 2001 and most recently worked as a housing officer. Devon Vickers, a friend and fellow Grace Community member, called Menzies a selfless person who put others' problems above his own.

An on-the-job injury had left Menzies on crutches, but Vickers said the officer's frequent phone calls would do more to comfort him. "He put everyone's problems ahead of his," he said.

Sheryl Vickers, Devon's wife and the church choir director, said her lasting memory of Menzies would be of him standing in the back of the room, leaning on a crutch with "one hand in the air, praising God."

Menzies had five children - three girls with his first wife, who died after an epileptic seizure - and a 9-year-old boy and 7-year-girl with Natacha. Grace Community Pastor Robert L. Burgess began his eulogy gently, calling Menzies a loving husband and father who set a positive example by attending services no matter his schedule or physical ailment.

But Burgess turned fiery when he spoke of how Menzies' life was taken. "Somebody has got to do something about these folks who are driving under the influence," Burgess said in a near-scream. "It has become a deadly enemy in our society. How long must this enemy trouble us?"

The church has established the Andre Menzies Fund to support his family. Donations may be addressed to P.O. Box 244, Amityville, NY 11701.