CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An off-duty Suffolk County officer has pleaded not guilty to upgraded charges in connection with a fiery crash that left another driver dead on Sunrise Highway.
The driver of the van, 37-year-old Brian Fusaro, of Bay Shore, was trapped in his vehicle and burned to death after it caught fire, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said.
“It’s tragic,” Spota said. “The fact that he [Scheuerer] is a police officer and should be protecting the law makes it even more tragic.”
The 24-year-old officer, who lost part of his leg in the crash, said nothing during his arraignment on new charges that include aggravated vehicular homicide. He was initially charged with reckless endangerment.
Attorney William Petrillo cautions against drawing conclusions.
“His being on the wrong side of the road had nothing to do with alcohol consumption,” Petrillo said. “We plan to strongly and vigorously defend the allegations in this case.”
But Spota said they have evidence that Scheuerer was out drinking at a bar with friends before the crash.
“The defendant had 10 pints of beer and also a margarita,” Spota said.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, beer followed by a margarita chaser is what the off duty offcier was drinking in a Bay Shore bar with fellow officers — beginning at 10 p.m. and ending at 2:49 a.m. nearly 5 hours later — according to the upgraded charges.
He allegedly climbed behind the wheel, and entered the wrong way on Sunrise Highway as frightened motorists honked, flashed lights, braked, and swerved. Sheuerer then slammed head on into a company van driven by Fusaro.
“He was such a good person. He shouldn’t have lost his life that day. He should still be here,” Tina Green said.
The victim, who worked for a closet company for nearly 20 years, was heard screaming for his life.
“His family’s ruined. A lot of lives were touched by one careless act. It’s terrible,” Peter Roy said.
“We are all human. I know things happen, but he should be held liable,” Lorraine Zephne added.
Toxicology reports indicate the officer’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
“One hour and fourteen minutes after impact his blood alcohol level awas .174,” Spota said.
Scheuerer is free on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on charges that could get him up to 26 years in prison if convicted.
He’s been suspended without pay.