A former New York City police officer has been formally indicted in connection with a hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of a teenage girl from Long Island who had Down syndrome, according to online court records and an article published Thursday in Newsday.
Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, is scheduled to be arraigned next week at the Nassau County Court in Mineola. The records show the former NYPD officer has been charged with a felony count of leaving the scene of an incident involving a death. A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice had no comment Thursday when asked about the indictment.
According to a criminal complaint filed when Elardo was first arraigned at the Nassau County District Court two weeks ago, investigators charge he was behind the wheel of a 2011 Chrysler Town and Country minivan and traveling east along Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown when he struck a 13-year-old girl in the crosswalk at Gardiners Avenue. Police have said the teen, Bryanna Soplin, who had Down syndrome, made it across two lanes of traffic before she was struck. Her family has said the teen was hit after she snuck out of their home late at night to visit her grandparents in Hicksville.
Homicide detectives said Elardo fled the scene and headed east along Hempstead Turnpike before he took an on-ramp for the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. Soplin, who was seriously injured in the crash, was rushed to the hospital with traumatic head and body injuries. She died in the emergency room at Nassau University Medical Center.
At a news conference after Elardo’s arrest, Det. Lt. John Azzata, the commander of the Nassau Police Homicide Squad, said detectives were planning to review video from traffic cameras at the intersection. He said the minivan involved – which police later recovered – was not registered to Elardo. Azzata said Elardo was cooperative with investigators and had no prior criminal convictions.
The Syosset man’s defense lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian, has said Elardo didn’t realize he had struck a child – and thought he hit a cone – but surrendered his car to police after seeing news reports about the crash. He has said Elardo’s current bail status – $1 million – is “excessive” and filed papers with the Appellate Division in Brooklyn in an effort to have the bail reduced. That matter is still pending.