Off-Duty NYPD Cop Who Killed SI Pedestrian Found Guilty of Homicide

Off-duty NYPD cop Joseph McClean hit William Hemphill with an SUV in Staten Island in 2013. He was convicted of homicide and leaving the scene. Image: WABC via Staten Island Advance
Off-duty NYPD cop Joseph McClean hit William Hemphill with an SUV in Staten Island in 2013. He was convicted of homicide and leaving the scene. Image: WABC via Staten Island Advance

An off-duty NYPD officer was found guilty at trial last week for the hit-and-run killing of a pedestrian in the Mariners Harbor section of Staten Island.

[Update: McClean was sentenced to one to three years in prison, fined $2,000, and had his drivers license revoked, according to the Staten Island Advance.]

William Hemphill, 51, was crossing Richmond Terrace, near Simonson Avenue, to get food before work at about 6:18 a.m. on October 4, 2013, when Joseph McClean struck him at a high rate of speed with a Ford SUV, the Advance reported.

Prosecutors said the collision severed Hemphill’s spinal cord, broke 14 of his ribs and both of his legs. McClean, who according to prosecutors had spent the previous night drinking at a bar, left the scene.

The crash occurred six hours after McClean ended his shift at the 121st Precinct, the Daily News reported.

“The guy hit him so hard he landed a block away. He hit him and he kept on going,” the bodega’s owner told the News.

McClean was charged with felony leaving the scene, homicide, and driving while ability impaired. In court, McClean’s attorney put the victim on trial, arguing that Hemphill had prescription drugs and cocaine in his system, and therefore caused the collision.

From the Advance:

“How do we know whether the alcohol made any difference? It wouldn’t have,” said [Attorney Howard] Tanner, who addressed jurors for more than two hours. “It is the greatest fear of all of us. Someone running out into the street and we have no chance [to avoid hitting them]. It’s not criminal. … This was a tragic accident. All the stars aligned in the wrong way.”

“His ability to drive his SUV was impaired by alcohol, his speed was excessive and he was driving on the wrong side of the road,” said Assistant District Attorney Frank Prospero. “This defendant left Mr. Hemphill to die in the street.”

Jurors convicted McClean on all counts last Friday, according to court records. The top charge, class D leaving the scene, is a more severe charge than homicide under state law, and carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. McClean is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

McClean is the latest NYPD employee to be convicted of killing someone while drinking and driving. Former police commissioners Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly played down or largely ignored NYPD’s drunk driving problem — as far as the public knows, at least. Unfortunately it’s only a matter of time before a serious crash occurs on Commissioner James O’Neill’s watch.

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