The man, John Ricciardi, 49, led a marked squad car on a mile-long chase before losing control about 4:15 a.m. at Little East Neck Road and Belmont Avenue in West Babylon, said Det. Lt. Robert Edwards of the First Squad. The car struck a retaining wall and a pole and overturned.
An officer had stopped Ricciardi near Outlook Avenue for driving too fast, but, "when he got up to the car, the guy took off," Edwards said.
The pursuing police officer appears to have followed the department's policy governing car chases, which requires a cop to radio in his decision to pursue and for a supervisor be assigned to monitor the situation, Edwards said.
The investigation was still in its early stages, Edwards cautioned, adding that superiors would be reviewing the entire incident.
Detectives are trying to figure out why Ricciardi - a married father of two sons with no outstanding warrants and only an old driving-while-impaired violation conviction going back decades - would flee from a traffic stop. They want to know where Ricciardi was coming from and await results of toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol, Edwards said.
The wreckage contained no preliminary evidence of drugs or alcohol, he said.
At the crash site, near West Babylon Junior High School, car shards littered the ground and a pole holding a caution sign for motorists of the nearby school lay twisted.
A neighbor, 18-year-old Amy Chugh, had photographs of the mangled car on her iPhone.
"You hear a big bang, then a cop car is there - and then there were a lot of cop cars," she said.
Outside Ricciardi's home on Outlook Avenue - down the block from where police said he sped away in the brief, fatal chase - his family and friends hugged and consoled one another.
Tears fell down the cheeks of Ricciardi's eldest son, John Ricciardi Jr., as he recalled his dad: their frequent trips to work out together at the gym; their recent family vacation to Florida; the Chinese-food dinner the family had shared the night before the crash.
"He just wanted the best for us," wept Ricciardi Jr., 22.
He said he's angry that the police chased his father.
The senior John Ricciardi's brother, Rick Ricciardi, said his brother had been skeptical of how the police dealt with people.
"He's not a cop lover," said Rick Ricciardi, 43, of Port Jefferson. "He probably said, 'Why the hell are they pulling me over?' "