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An NYPD Cop Is Actually Being Charged For Killing a New Yorker

NYPD Sergeant Erik Duran faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and assault for throwing a cooler at Eric Duprey in the Bronx, killing him.

A sunset in Gowanus.
(Hell Gate)

On August 23, 2023, a man named Eric Duprey died on the street in the Bronx. Duprey was fleeing police officers on his motorbike when NYPD sergeant Erik Duran threw a 40-pound cooler at Duprey and knocked him to the ground, killing him. On Tuesday, Duran pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and first- and second-degree assault, and is facing up to 25 years in prison for the first charge alone. The office of New York State's Attorney General, Letitia James, is prosecuting the case.

A lawyer from Duran's union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called the charges the work of "overzealous prosecutors with a political agenda." A "law enforcement source" told the New York Post that the NYPD Patrol Guide is "intentionally vague," and lacks a "direct," "don’t throw stuff'" policy for cops. The City's most powerful people do not seem to be in Duran's corner. 

"That's not a policy we use, throwing a cooler," Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday, at an unrelated press conference following Duran's indictment—part of his continued repudiation of what he called a "terrible incident" back in September. NYPD discipline for Duran has also been "unusually quick"—Duprey's death was ruled a homicide by the City's medical examiner back in August, and Duran was suspended without pay hours after the incident.

Duprey's family has contested the police narrative that he was a drug dealer running from a bust. His brother told the New York Times that they were simply hanging out outside when they were approached by the undercover officers, and that Duprey fled because he was driving an unregistered motorbike; his mother told the Associated Press that any story about her son selling drugs was "all lies." On Tuesday, Duprey's wife, Orlyanis Velez, appeared in court wearing a shirt with her husband's face on it, with the words "Rest in Peace Cuajo," a nickname for Duprey, above his photo, along with the dates of his birth and death.

It's easy to see the horror and violence in Duprey's killing, which makes the cop who killed him particularly easy to condemn, even for a mayoral administration with a strident law and order bent and a police department that has so far protected police impunity. Security camera footage, used in the investigation by AG James that resulted in charges for Duran, was swiftly and widely available to the press and the public in the immediate aftermath of Duprey's death, and it is brutal. And Duran himself isn't a particularly impressive cop, which makes him more readily disposable. He's an officer who racked up 17 CCRB complaints over a 13-year career, with one, related to abuse of authority during a stop, substantiated.

If the case against Duran continues to trend in the same direction, Duprey's family could very well see justice for his death under the legal system—and they can find a degree of solace in that, and in the fact that the mayor and the NYPD top brass have affirmed their loved one's death was a tragedy. Other families who have lost people to police violence—most notably Kawaksi Trawick's—can't even say that.

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