DA: Cop Who Killed Bronx Pedestrian Had History of Drinking and Driving

The Riverdale Press revealed last week what should have been a bombshell allegation of the sort that is splashed on front pages across the city. But it wasn’t picked up by other media outlets, nor was it the focus of the Riverdale Press story.

Prosecutors say former NYPD detective Kevin Spellman caused a crash in Yonkers and was disciplined for driving a police car under the influence before he killed pedestrian Drane Nikac. Image: WABC

Former NYPD detective Kevin Spellman is on trial for vehicular homicide for allegedly mowing down 70-year-old Bronx pedestrian Drane Nikac while driving drunk in a government vehicle three years ago this month. According to the Riverdale Press, prosecutors from the office of Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson have sought to introduce evidence that the crash that killed Nikac wasn’t the first incident in which Spellman was caught drinking and driving.

The first incident the District Attorney’s Office would want to introduce, according to the transcript, took place on Oct. 14, 2004. Mr. Spellman, who was off duty at the time, was allegedly driving the wrong direction on a one-way street in a police vehicle.

Civilians reported him to police after they said they noticed him staggering into a bodega to buy beer, smelling of alcohol and with bloodshot eyes. Two other police officers had been in the car with Mr. Spellman.

He wasn’t arrested but he pleaded guilty to internal charges, forfeiting 26 vacation days and accepting an eight-day unpaid suspension and 10 months of modified duty.

According to the transcript, the second incident took place on Aug. 2, 1997. It was a sunny, clear summer day and Mr. Spellman allegedly ran a stop sign in Yonkers, striking a family of three. The father asked the police officer at the scene to perform a Breathalyzer test on Mr. Spellman but the cop refused, according to the transcript. The matter was eventually settled in a civil suit, she said.

Mr. Spellman allegedly made a similar admittance on the day of this accident as the one he made in 2009. He said he didn’t see the 1989 Plymouth Sundance he hit.

These allegations, if true, are nothing short of scandalous: An NYPD detective evades arrest after causing a crash, receives a slap on the wrist years later for driving a police vehicle under the influence, and finally kills a bystander, again while driving drunk in a government-issued car. (Prosecutors from Johnson’s office, understandably, could not comment on the ongoing Spellman trial.)

It’s no stretch to say that drunk driving by New York City police is a deadly epidemic. Weeks before Nikac was killed, in September 2009, off-duty cop Andrew Kelly fatally struck Vionique Valnord in Brooklyn. Around the same time, an off-duty homicide detective killed himself when he slammed into a garbage truck on the BQE. In February 2010, three off-duty officers were arrested for driving under the influence over a span of 11 days, one of them having flipped a car on a Midtown sidewalk. The list goes on and on.

As the number of arrests and victims has increased, it’s a problem that has received scant attention from Commissioner Ray Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council or, aside from sporadic coverage of crashes and trials, the media. This continues to be the case even when drinking and driving is evidently excused by the department itself, and leads to the death of an innocent civilian.

  • Maddogsquid

    Most of them are arrested and get fired. Yeah Cops should know better but there are plenty of other arrests for DWI of other city employees and private secret jobs. Cops are human and their punishments are usually greater then most

  • Maddogsquid

    Oops… private sector jobs

  • But, as I pointed out recently (
    http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/10/do-as-you-like-motorists-and-dont-blame.html ) we’re meant to be focusing on how the city is cracking down on food delivery cyclists. You are quite right that the skewed priorities in addressing road safety are a scandal.

  • Guest

    You’re kidding yourself if you think most of them are fired.  “Professional courtesy” (the phrase should almost automatically result in charges of enterprise corruption…) has shielded drunk driving cops from any consequences for a long, long time.

    Unfortunately, it’s not really “news” because it’s just not new.  This tragic state of affairs is so common place that it no longer seems noteworthy.

    What I would like to see is a good wrongful death case against the NYPD for this.

  • KillMoto

    Beyond this specific person and case – the relevant question is “why are the police self medicating with alcohol?”  There are many causes of alcoholism, but one big one is a feeling of powerlessness.  Maybe some of these cops are sick of the same carnage we are.  Sick to death of it – but hog-tied by departmental policy that only allows 19 of their 40,000 work force to investigate vehicular homicides.  Bound by policy to focus on ticketing cyclists outside the bike lane, and sidewalk riding delivery men.  

    I think if I was a NYC police officer, but barred by policy from doing something significant to lower traffic crimes, it would drive me to drink, too. 

    Hopefully however I’d have the sense to take a cab home. 

  • Guest

    Man, i feel guilty about the times in my younger student days where I would drive while potentially/probably being over the limit (“oh, you want to leave the party? give me an hour and two glasses of water”); I can’t believe there are dudes who get outright blind drunk are getting behind the wheel.

  • Guest

    Man, i feel guilty about the times in my younger student days where I would drive while potentially/probably being over the limit (“oh, you want to leave the party? give me an hour and two glasses of water”); I can’t believe there are dudes who get outright blind drunk are getting behind the wheel.

  • Guest

    It’s not just NYC where there’s a substantial number of cops with alcohol issues. http://www.courant.com/community/windsor-locks/hc-koistinen-verdict-20121010,0,6915950.story
    Apparently the unspoken rule that there’s no need for a breathalyzer test when a cop is involved in a fatal car accident gets in the way of the prosecutors’ being able to get any inclupatory statement showing a conspiracy or obstruction. At least the states attorneys in CT do have an inclination to prosecute these cases. http://www.courant.com/community/bristol/hc-bristol-mosback-1002-20121001,0,7345731.story



  • Johnnyrecovered

    i hate alcoholics they are all so so selfish , its all about them . they are takers .. take take take ….. all their lives . they abuse their families , friends , employers etc….. fuck em all , those dirty drunks !

  • Bad cops! 


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