A former NYPD officer has been charged in connection with the hit-and-run that killed a girl with Down syndrome on Long Island early Sunday, police say.
Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, surrendered to police Monday and was charged Tuesday with leaving the scene of an accident, Nassau County police say. He's being held on $1 million bond.
Elardo, a 13-year veteran of the NYPD, is accused of leaving the scene after fatally hitting Bryanna Soplin with his car as the 13-year-old girl crossed Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown over the weekend.
Soplin was taken to the hospital with head and body trauma and died about four hours after the impact.
Her mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, was at Nassau County Courthouse Tuesday as Elardo was arraigned.
"I'm a little happier that he gave himself in, but no matter what happens, he's not going to bring my baby back," she said.
Curuchaga said she said goodnight to Soplin and went to sleep but that the 13-year-old left home around midnight and started to walk to visit her grandfather.
Curuchaga said Soplin had never wandered off before.
Elardo, a single father with four children of his own, did not stop because he thought he hit a traffic cone, according to his attorney.
"I am not articulate to say how remorseful he is," said Michael Dergarabedian. "He has been going through hell for the past three days."
Elardo once earned a merit award for saving an infant from a fire, according to his family.
"He is always there to help everybody. This is just a tragic accident," said his uncle Roger Nicolette. "It's horrible for both families."
The NYPD said the department has not had contact with Elardo since he retired on disability in 1998 after being injured on the job. The nature of the injury wasn't clear.
--Michael George contributed to this report