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Cops: Driver faces manslaughter charge in fatal Holtsville crash while fleeing police

Police said a pickup truck driver fleeing police

Police said a pickup truck driver fleeing police struck and killed a man driving a Honda Civic late Tuesday night in Holtsville. Credit: James Carbone

A Blue Point man accused of striking and killing a motorist in Holtsville while fleeing police was charged Thursday with second-degree manslaughter, authorities said.

Robert Hengeveld, 50, already faced numerous charges after his arrest in the Tuesday night crash that killed Starlin Diaz Felipe, 19, of Medford.

A female passenger was ejected from the Toyota Tacoma pickup driven by Hengeveld after it crashed into a Honda Civic driven by Felipe at Express Drive South and North Ocean Avenue, Suffolk police said Wednesday. The passenger, identified Thursday as Tariasha Smith, 25, of West Babylon, remained at Stony Brook University Medical Center in serious condition, Suffolk police said.

The crash is the third fatal accident involving a vehicle chased by Suffolk police since 2018. Police have launched an internal investigation to determine if the pursuit complied with department policy, which is standard procedure.

Tuesday night’s pursuit came after a Suffolk police officer, in a marked car, tried to pull Hengeveld over about 11:30 p.m. on Long Island Avenue near Gazebo Lane because the pickup had stolen license plates, authorities said. Police later determined that the pickup was also stolen.

Instead of complying, Hengeveld drove away, according to police. The officer followed Hengeveld as he continued southbound on North Ocean Avenue before striking the Honda at 11:41 p.m. as it drove eastbound on Express Drive South, police said.

Felipe was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

Investigators are working to determine the speeds of the patrol car and the pickup at the time of the collision. Hengeveld was arrested and treated at Stony Brook University Hospital for noncritical injuries, police said.

In addition to second-degree manslaughter, Hengeveld also faces charges of reckless driving, first-degree unlawfully fleeing a police officer, criminal possession of stolen property, and other offenses, including multiple bench warrants. He was scheduled for arraignment in Central Islip on Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini’s office. As of 6 p.m., arraignment information for Hengeveld was not available.

A Suffolk police policy issued in 2009 said officers may initiate a pursuit if a driver "clearly exhibits the intention of avoiding arrest."

The policy also calls for pursuits if a suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of other motorists, or has committed or is attempting to commit a violent felony.

Drivers suspected of an offense less than a violent felony, according to the policy, may be pursued if they pose a danger to others, such as a motorist operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The Suffolk police policy also urges officers to discontinue chases when they pose an "exceptional danger" to pursuing cops and the public.

"The pursuing officers must consider present danger, seriousness of the crime, length of pursuit and the possibility of identifying the suspect at a later time when determining whether or not to continue the pursuit," the policy said.

Starlin Diaz Felipe is a man. The information was incorrect in a previous version of this article.

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