(CN) – A drunken, off-duty New York City police officer opened fire without cause on two men stopped at a traffic light, almost killing one of them, federal lawsuits filed by the victims claims.
In separate complaints filed Monday in Manhattan, Joseph Feline and Robert Borrelli say they were driving home from an amateur hockey game on the night of April 28, 2014, when they stopped at traffic light in the Bronx.
It was then, they say, that NYPD officer Brendan Cronin “stepped out of the shadows,” calmly walked to the driver’s side rear door of his parked car, reached inside, and retrieved his service weapon.
Then, “in a bladed stance,” Cronin proceeded to fire 14 bullets into the passenger side of the men’s car. Felice, who was in the passenger seat, was shot six times, including once in the head, and narrowly escaped death, the complaint says.
According to court documents, Cronin and other officers had hours earlier completed the second day of training in high-risk traffic stops. They then went to a bar on nearby City Island to drink and watch sports on television.
Cronin later admitted he consumed 10 drinks consisting of Jameson whiskey shots and beer, the complaint says.
Feline and Borrelli claim that while at the bar, Cronin’s fellow officers participated in and encouraged his drinking, and then bid him good night, knowing he was getting into his car to supposedly drive home to Yonkers.
But instead of driving home, Cronin exited the highway and stopped on a street in the Pelham section of the Bronx. A security camera at a car wash located across the street from where he parked, allegedly captured Cronin exiting his vehicle and entering an adjacent yard.
Then it shows the car occupied Feline and Borrelli stopping at the traffic light, and the events of the shooting as described in the complaint, the men say.
“Investigators determined that Officer Cronin, still wearing his NYPD t-shirt stained with powder from the training exercise he underwent earlier that day … fired a 9mm Glock — his NYPD-issued service weapon — at close range and directly at the two innocent and unsuspecting men as they say chatting in Rob’s stopped car,” the complaint says.
It continues: “The bullets moved purposefully from right to left, first striking Joe, who was sitting in the right passenger seat, and then moving methodically to the left toward the driver’s side where Rob attempted to crouch under the dashboard to shield himself from the onslaught of bullets riddling the car.”
Borrelli claims his insurance company later declared his car “totaled” because the damage from the incident was so extensive.
The plaintiffs say after the shooting stopped, Borrelli sped to a nearby hospital. Cronin, meanwhile, climbed into his car, and slowly drove away with his hazard lights flashing. When police caught up to him about a quarter-mile from the scene, the complaint says, Cronin brandished his gun and repeatedly ignored orders from police to drop it.
“It was only after he was told that he would be shot if he didn’t drop the gun that Cronin dropped the weapon out the car window, gave himself up and was taken into custody.” the complaint says.
Cronin refused to take a breathalyzer test, and said he had no memory of the shooting. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault and one count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
He has been suspended from the force, and his criminal prosecution is still pending.
Feline and Borrelli say Cronin’s attorney has since claimed that his client was “black out” drunk at the time of the shooting, and re-enacting the training he received earlier in the day.
The plaintiffs say the incident was the result of the city’s “longstanding deliberate indifference to substance abuse, including alcohol, by its police officers.”
They seek punitive damages, and are represented by Randolph McLaughlin of Newman Ferrara.
A spokesman for the city law department said the lawsuits are under review.
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