NYPD sergeant who threw cooler that led to death of Bronx man slated to appear in court

The NYPD sergeant who tossed a cooler that led to the death of a Bronx man is slated to appear in court Tuesday morning on an indictment brought by state Attorney General Letitia James’ office, according to sources familiar with the case.

Sgt. Erik Duran is expected to appear in Bronx Supreme Court to face unspecified charges in connection with the death of Eric Duprey, who was hit with the cooler Aug. 23 in Kingsbridge Heights as he tried to flee a drug bust on a motor scooter.

The impact of the cooler knocked Duprey off the scooter and he slammed his head into the ground. The city medical examiner’s office said Duprey died from blunt-force trauma and ruled his death a homicide.

cop cooler nyc scooter fatal crash

Eric Duprey, a scooter-riding suspect fleeing a Bronx buy-and-bust drug sting, died Wednesday when an NYPD sergeant struck him with this red cooler. Duprey was fatally injured when he fell to the ground. Bronx narcotics Sgt. Erik Duran was suspended from his job hours later.

Obtained by Daily News

Eric Duprey, a scooter-riding suspect fleeing a Bronx buy-and-bust drug sting, died after an NYPD sergeant struck him with the red cooler pictured here.

“We are encouraged by the fact that the first step has been taken toward holding this officer accountable for the senseless and unnecessary death of Eric Duprey,” said Jonathan Roberts, a lawyer representing Duprey’s family.

Neither Duran’s lawyer Andrew Quinn nor James’ office responded to requests for comment on Monday.

The NYPD suspended Duran right after the incident took place, with Police Commissioner Edward Caban and Mayor Adams criticizing Duran’s actions.

“Our tactics, as the commissioner stated, we don’t throw coolers at fleeing suspects,” Adams said Sept. 6. “The attorney general has the case now. My heart goes out to the family. It’s a terrible incident that took place.”

Eric Duprey's wife, Orlyanis Velez, is pictured at a memorial for her husband on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Duprey, a scooter-riding suspect fleeing a Bronx buy-and-bust drug sting, was killed on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, when an NYPD sergeant grabbed a cooler from a nearby family get-together and hurled it at the man, knocking him to the ground, an eyewitness and police sources said. Bronx narcotics Sgt. Erik Duran was suspended from his job hours after the lethal encounter, police sources said. (Sheetal Banchariya for New York Daily News)
Eric Duprey’s wife, Orlyanis Velez, is pictured at a memorial for her husband on Aug. 24, 2023. (Sheetal Banchariya for New York Daily News)

The Sergeants Benevolent Association has steadfastly defended Duran and decried James’ “demonization and criminalization” of the 13-year veteran sergeant. But the union has avoided criticizing Caban and Adams for their statements.

SBA President Vincent Vallelong maintained Duran made a “split-second decision based solely on his concern for the safety of others.”

Duprey’s family met with James’ office in early September. Her office is empowered by a Cuomo-era executive order to investigate deaths in police custody and brings charges when the evidence merits it.

“It disgusts me to see SBA chief propagandist Vincent Vallelong, who is so quick to lie to come to the defense of an officer,” said Hawk Newsome of the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter.

“He called Letitia James an overzealous prosecutor. Meanwhile, the day this happened, the sergeant was suspended. Both the mayor and the police commissioner condemned the cooler killer’s actions.”

Police secure the scene on Aqueduct Ave. at W. 190th St. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Eric Duprey, a scooter-riding suspect fleeing a Bronx buy-and-bust drug sting, was killed on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, when an NYPD sergeant grabbed a cooler from a nearby family get-together and hurled it at the man, knocking him to the ground, an eyewitness and police sources said. Bronx narcotics Sgt. Erik Duran was suspended from his job hours after the lethal encounter, police sources said. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)
Police secure the scene on Aqueduct Ave. at W. 190th St. in the Bronx on Aug. 23, 2023, near site of the cooler-throwing. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)

Records show Duran has been the subject of six civilian complaints. Just one was substantiated — for an improper stop — resulting in him receiving a warning. He has also been named in at least two prior lawsuits.

In 2020, a Bronx woman named Cristina Bertoncelli sued the city, alleging cops including Duran unlawfully handcuffed her in her home, court records show. She claimed Duran made her vomit by forcing her to drink a container of water after she fainted.

The city denied her allegations, and that case is pending.

In 2019, Maurice Solomon sued Duran and other cops alleging they illegally stopped him while he was standing in front of his Bronx building and threw him to the ground, court records show.

Solomon was acquitted of charges of resisting arrest and obstructing the police at trial, the records show.

That lawsuit settled in 2020 for $20,000.

Police secure the scene on Aqueduct Ave. at W. 190th St. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Eric Duprey, a scooter-riding suspect fleeing a Bronx buy-and-bust drug sting, was killed on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, when an NYPD sergeant grabbed a cooler from a nearby family get-together and hurled it at the man, knocking him to the ground, an eyewitness and police sources said. Bronx narcotics Sgt. Erik Duran was suspended from his job hours after the lethal encounter, police sources said. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)
Police secure the scene on Aqueduct Ave. at W. 190th St. in the Bronx on Aug. 23, 2023. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)

As The News reported Sept. 2, elements of the case mirror the indictment two decades ago of former Officer Craig Yokemick who threw a radio at 36-year-old Kenneth Banks in Harlem in 1998.

The device was flung with such force that it knocked Banks off his bicycle at E. 125th St. and Madison Ave. and fractured his skull, leading to his death 12 days later.

A grand jury in Manhattan declined to indict the cop and the city settled a lawsuit brought by the family for $1.6 million.

A federal grand jury indicted Yokemick in 2003 for violating Banks’ civil rights and he pleaded guilty in 2004.

He was released from a 35-month prison sentence in 2008.

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