What to Know
- A 43-year-old NYPD veteran directing highway traffic after a deadly crash on the Long Island Expressway was struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver who fled the scene
- The 32-year-old woman was later apprehended and now faces a litany of charges; top police officials say it's highly unlikely she could have not realized she had hit the officer given damage to her car
- The victim, Anastasios Tsakos, is survived by his wife, Irene, and their 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son
An NYPD highway officer died after being hit by an alleged drunken driver as he investigated a crash scene on the Long Island Expressway early Tuesday, officials say.
The Highway Unit officer, identified as 43-year-old Anastasios Tsakos, a 14-year veteran of the force, was at a scene in Clearview around 2 a.m. of a crash after a driver lost control of a vehicle and slammed into a concrete wall while trying to take an exit. The vehicle burst into flames, with a driver and two passengers pulled from the fire and rushed to the hospital. Another passenger died at the scene, and the driver of the car was later charged.
Tsakos was redirecting traffic at the crash site when a 2013 Volkswagen Passat driven by a 32-year-old woman hit him and sped off, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. When asked whether it was possible that the woman didn't realize she had hit the officer, Shea said the damage to her vehicle was so extensive that "there's no way to not know that you struck an individual."
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According to the charges, Tsakos was thrown in the air and landed on a nearby patch of grass. He later died of his injuries at a hospital.
Shea identified the female driver as 32-year-old Jessica Beauvais, of Hempstead. She faces a litany of charges including manslaughter, aggravated manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of a deadly accident, DWI and other offenses. Beauvais allegedly blew a .15 -- nearly twice the legal limit, according to a law enforcement official.
At the time of the crash, Beauvais' driver license was apparently suspended for failure to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment in relation to a speeding conviction. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said Beauvais did not stop or slow down after striking the officer with her car, instead traveling several exits before getting onto the Horace Harding Expressway, where she jumped a curb and mounted a sidewalk in her car. Police surrounded Beauvais, according to the charges, and she tried to flee by putting her car in reverse and ramming into a police vehicle twice before coming to a stop. She was taken into custody immediately after.
According to two senior law enforcement officials, Beauvais was combative during her arrest; she also admitted to drinking vodka and smoking marijuana prior to the collision. As she was led out in handcuffs to a police cruiser, she tearfully said she was sorry for striking the officer.
She was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Tuesday evening, and faces up to 15 years in prison. It is not immediately known if she had retained an attorney. Her family was seen at her home Tuesday evening, but did not speak with reporters.
Top city officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, lamented the senselessness of the cop's death.
"He's dead before he was at an accident where people had driven recklessly also with a suspended license," de Blasio said. "He's dead because of other people's negligence."
During his daily coronavirus press briefing Tuesday, de Blasio once again touched upon the tragedy.
"My heart is heavy," he said. "We lost a very good young man -- a 14-year veteran of the NYPD, someone who went out there every day and serve us."
Tsakos is survived by his wife, Irene, and their 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, de Blasio said, adding that Tsakos was "the epitome of a family man."
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea called Tsakos' death a "profound tragedy. The face that life was taken by a driver whose license had been suspended, and who was intoxicated, is nothing short of criminal and should be treated that way."
As a caravan of police escorted the officer's body to the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, Tsakos' former neighbors in Flushing and new neighbors in Northport, where Tsakos moved in September with his family, echoed praise for the fallen cop. One neighbor said she felt like she had just "lost a brother."