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Two Dead in the Bronx as Killer Drivers Continue to Game NY Legal System

1:27 PM EDT on July 16, 2012

Two people are dead and another is in critical condition after separate hit-and-run crashes in the Bronx this weekend.

On Friday at around 11:20 p.m., David Ellis was riding a friend's bike on Webster Avenue near East Gun Hill Road when he was struck by the driver of a Nissan Maxima traveling in the same direction, according to reports. The impact threw Ellis into the path of the driver of a Ford Explorer, who ran him over. The driver of the Maxima and a passenger fled on foot, while the second driver remained at the scene.

Ellis, 18, was a high school football standout who, according to his family, coach and teammates, was on track to play college ball. NYPD told the Daily News they had identified the occupants of the Maxima, who had not been located as of Saturday.

Less than an hour after Ellis was hit, two men crossing Grand Concourse near E. 170th Street were struck by the driver of a Honda CRV who, according to police and witnesses, never slowed down, and who stopped only when he crashed into EMS responders en route to the scene. Juan Rivera-Quintana, 42, was pronounced dead at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. The second victim, a 34-year-old male whose name was not released, was reported in critical condition as of Sunday night.

Police identified the driver as Richard Habermann, 37, from Armonk. Prosecutors said Habermann refused a breath test at the scene. After police obtained a warrant, his blood alcohol content was reportedly found to be .234 percent, roughly three times the legal limit for driving. Habermann was charged with homicide, manslaughter, vehicular assault, leaving the scene, DWI, reckless driving and other charges, according to court records.

In New York State, prosecutors have long sought to untangle legal obstacles that prevent police from obtaining crucial blood alcohol evidence from suspected drunk drivers, who now stand to benefit from the lag time between a crash and the procurement of a warrant. So onerous are the requirements that a 2009 panel, convened after high-profile pedestrian fatalities caused by off-duty NYPD personnel, set its sights mainly on shortening the warrant time frame from seven to five hours.

In addition, under current New York law drivers have an incentive to flee the scene of a crash. A bill to increase penalties for hit-and-run crashes failed in the legislature this year.

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