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Suffolk DA drops DWI charge against Riverhead driver who struck boy

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office on Monday dropped a drunken driving charge against a Riverhead driver who police say struck and seriously injured a child on a bicycle.

The DWI charge against William H. Downing, 77, was dropped after blood tests taken after the Aug. 4 crash at the police station showed he had a blood-alcohol level of .03 percent, said DA spokeswoman Sheila Kelly. Under state law, a person can be charged with DWI if a blood or breath test registers with .08 percent blood alcohol level or above.

At the scene earlier, Downing had registered a .05 percent blood alcohol level on a preliminary breath test — below the legal threshold for intoxication. But state law allows police to file that charge based on the officer's observations and judgment.

Downing had been turning his 2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT left onto Doris Avenue from Lewis Street in Riverhead at 6:41 p.m. when he collided with the 5-year-old boy, police said.

Police said they found the boy lying in the roadway with serious injuries to his head. The boy was flown by Suffolk County Police Department helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital. His condition was upgraded from critical to stable the next day, police said. He is now back home.

On Monday, Downing's attorney, Daniel Rodgers, criticized the handling of the case by the Riverhead police. Rodgers said the arrest was made despite the breath test at the scene showing Downing was not legally intoxicated and without a field sobriety test.

"They simply put him in handcuffs, took him away, and locked him up for the night," Rodgers said. "This was just a horrible, horrible case."

He said Downing, who was turning onto his own street, stayed with the boy at the scene, called 911 and cooperated with police.

The Riverhead police declined to comment Monday.

No other charges were filed against Downing.


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