I-Team: Internal Affairs Probe After Cops Fail to Test Driver for Alcohol

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A New Jersey city employee with connections to law enforcement officials struck his friend with a truck and was found by police inside a bar a block away, but somehow, he was never given a blood alcohol test. Chris Glorioso has this I-Team investigation. (Published Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013)

    A New Jersey city employee with connections to law enforcement officials struck his friend with a truck and was found by police inside a bar a block away, but somehow, he was never given a blood alcohol test.

    Now a Teaneck Internal Affairs investigator is asking questions about the case.
    According to sworn depositions in a civil lawsuit against the driver, Mike Hennig, the Teaneck municipal employee, was bar-hopping, drinking and doing shots with friends at a strip club on Nov. 17, 2011.
    Sometime around midnight, Hennig was driving two friends, David Teran and Keith Murphy, to another bar, when Teran got out of the truck while it was still on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck. Whether Teran got out while the pickup was still moving, or whether the vehicle was fully stopped at a traffic light, is in dispute. Somehow, he was struck by the right side of his friend's pickup. 
    "I have this recurring dream, with me lying in the road not being able to move and coughing up blood," Teran said.
    The Chevy truck crushed Teran's pelvis, lacerated his bladder and caused nerve damage in his spine, he says. 
    But according to the accident investigation report, Hennig had no idea he he had just run over his friend.
    When police arrived at the scene, Hennig was gone and his truck was parked in a CVS parking lot next to The Cottage Bar about 200 yards down the road.
    In a recorded phone call between Teaneck police personnel, a commanding officer said Hennig "is going to get charged with leaving the scene of an accident."
    But when the final accident report was completed, Hennig was given a careless driving violation, a traffic offense that carries two points on his license. He was not given a blood alcohol test, and his vehicle was released back to him.
    Teaneck Police Chief Robert Wilson said it was a complex case and stressed his investigating officers did not have access to those civil depositions in which Hennig's passengers admit all three men had been drinking.
    "If there are indications someone is intoxicated obviously we should act on that but I don't know that was the case," Wilson said. "All this information in the depositions was not available to us at the time."
    He also said Hennig's disappearance from the scene and emergence at a nearby bar was not necessarily enough information to prompt the giving of an alcohol breath test.
    "Being in a bar is not enough. It is the condition a driver is in when he's operating the vehicle," he said.
    The officer who wrote the police report, Patrolman Glenn Coley, declined to comment, saying he was not authorized by his superiors. 
    Both Hennig and his uninjured passenger, Keith Murphy, also declined to comment.
    Hennig works for the Teaneck Department of Public Works, which services Teaneck police vehicles. Murphy's father, Dennis Murphy, is a retired Teaneck patrolman, and on the night of the accident, police discussed that relationship in one phone call, wondering whether Hennig was "the guy from Hillside that hangs around with Murphy's kid?"
    Contacted outside his home, Murphy said he did not try to influence the accident investigation.
    After Teran sued, Hennig settled for $99,000. Teran still has an active claim against Teaneck Township and the drinking establishments that allegedly served Hennig before he got behind the wheel.
    Meanwhile. Teran says he has more than $300,000 in unpaid medical bills.
    "It's a possibility that I may have to file bankruptcy," he said.