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On Jan. 23, Sergeant Erik Duran, 36, a 14-year NYPD veteran with an exemplary record was charged in the Bronx for the crimes of assault in the first and second degrees, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He faces as much as 25 years in prison if convicted of the top counts.
The charges stem from an August 2023 incident where Duran, who was supervising an undercover buy and bust drug operation in the Bronx, threw a water cooler at suspect Eric Duprey. The 30-year-old Duprey was attempting to flee from a lawful arrest by hopping on a motor scooter and zooming down a sidewalk at approximately 40 mph. He was thrown from the scooter and died from his injuries.
Duprey’s reckless actions put scores of police officers, as well as innocent bystanders, including many children, in great danger. Duran’s split-second decision to stop him was predicated solely on his concern for the safety of others.
However, the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James chose to indict the sergeant for his quick and decisive actions, which police officers are expected to make every day. As if the arrest wasn’t enough, the AG’s office requested $150,000 bail for Duran. Considering the recent bail reforms, which have reduced the justice system into a revolving door of injustice, this sent a terrifying message to every cop in every corner of the city: Do your job at your own peril.
Duran, who is as decent and humble as he is dedicated and committed to his job, has become the latest victim of a legal system that treats honest hardworking cops as criminals and criminals as victims. Had the AG’s office properly investigated this case with an open mind, rather than treat it like a political opportunity, it would have concluded that the officer’s actions were justified, warranted, and most importantly, lawful.
The demonization of Duran and the criminalization of his actions once again proves the adage that an overzealous prosecutor with a political agenda can indict a ham sandwich if inclined to do so. The AG’s office displayed their fecklessness, disingenuousness, and glaring political opportunism at the expense of an honest and well-intentioned public servant.
Demanding such high bail for a well-respected and highly decorated officer with no past record, lifetime ties to the community, and 14 years invested in a job he loved reeked of spitefulness, pettiness and downright cruelty.
Even in today’s toxic political environment, the police department expects police officers to go out and aggressively fight crime. It acts as if the justice system will back them up when they are forced to make immediate life and death decisions. When officers are indicted for such serious and spurious charges after taking good faith and legal law enforcement action, the public becomes the ultimate victim.
The NYPD, whose morale is at an all-time low as it hemorrhages members from its ranks and has trouble finding new recruits, is once again lambasted by bungling bureaucrats with no grasp of reality when it comes to the safety of everyday New Yorkers.
Since Duran’s arrest, only a handful of elected New York City officials have reached out to offer a modicum of support. Police personnel must now perform their duties knowing that political idealogues masquerading as political leaders will think nothing of destroying their careers to advance their own.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association, the union representing Duran, will spare no expense in utilizing all resources to vigorously defend and vindicate him of these egregious accusations.
Meanwhile, the city continues to be destroyed from within, as the rot and decay of the 2020 bail and police “reforms” metastasizes the bedrock of what just a decade ago was considered the safest large city in the country. The sad reality is that under current conditions, no one is safe now — not the police or the citizens, tourists, daily workers, or even the migrants that come here for a better life.
Vincent J. Vallelong is a 34-year veteran of the NYPD and the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
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