COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The family of a man who died in a drunk driving crash claims the police are to blame.
Instead of arresting the man when he first drove drunk, they took him home, but he got back on the road.
Peter Fredden’s photo still hangs in the Commack deli that he owned, where he often treated local cops to generous discounts.
“They always kept an eye out for the store. They came here, they like the food,” deli worker Brian Hansen told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Now, Fedden’s family is blaming his death on his chummy relationship with cops. They’re suing Suffolk Police for negligence when they caught the 29-year-old driving drunk. Instead of arresting him, they did him a favor and drove him home.
“There is no question he would be alive today if he had been arrested at the first scene and there is no question he would be alive today if they had simply knocked on the door when they dropped him off,” Defense Attorney Harry Thomasson said.
Fedden’s attorney said he was obviously drunk when he left a restaurant in July 2013. He then smoked pot, got into a car, and drove 90 mph and crashed into Joe Calabrese’s front yard.
“He drove through that fence, hit two fences, hit my car, went through my garage door,” Calabrese said.
With a stack of police courtesy cards in Fedden’s pocket, the lawsuit claims his police friends made no arrest. Instead they gave him a lift home. Moments later Fredden got back behind the wheel of another car in his driveway, crashed into a building in Hauppauge and died.
“If you elect to take him home you can’t just leave him in that driveway full of cars and drive off,” Thomasson said.
Police have discretion to make an arrest, but friends of the popular deli owner are divided on whether the well-meaning officers are to blame.
“They probably thought they were doing the right thing, but in all reality they probably should have arrested him,” one friend said.
“He was taken home and at that point it was up to him to stay home,” another offered.
The lawsuit maintains that Fedden was too drunk to act responsibly, but police should have known better.
Suffolk police do not comment on pending litigation.
The pending $30-million lawsuit also names the restaurant Ruby Tuesdays for failing to adequately train bartenders in DWI prevention.
The restaurant chain did not respond to a request for comment.
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