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Brooklyn residents protest officer's release

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Angry Brooklyn residents held a candlelight march Monday to protest the release of an off-duty police officer accused of driving while intoxicated and fatally plowing into a pregnant woman, her 4-year-old son and her teen-age sister on his way to work.

The pregnant woman's baby was delivered in an emergency procedure after the accident Saturday, but he too died.

Police say blood tests show Officer Joseph Gray was drunk when his van struck the family, which was crossing a street in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn. He was charged with multiple crimes in connection with the accident, including vehicular homicide.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani criticized the judge's decision to release the officer.

"The judge made the decision to release him without bail which I believe -- and I think I speak for the police commissioner ... and others -- was a mistake," Giuliani said Monday.

An angry New York family wants answers after an allegedly drunk, off-duty policeman runs a red light and kills a pregnant mother, her son and her sister. CNN's Jason Carroll has more.

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"He should have been held on high bail whether he was or he wasn't a police officer," the mayor said. "Everybody should be held to an extremely high standard when it comes to drunk driving."

Gray was released without bail Sunday after his arraignment, a move that infuriated residents.

Giuliani defended the role of the police officers, stating that they did not give any preferential treatment to Gray because he was a fellow officer.

"The reality is they (police officers) treated him in a very, very strict way which is the way we treat everybody alleged to be involved with drunk driving," the New York mayor explained.

Angry residents of a Brooklyn community protested the officer's release Monday.

"Police officers are supposed to protect us. They are not above the law. He should be in jail," said Maria Pena, the mother of Maria Herrera and Dilcia Pena, who were killed in the accident along with her grandson, Andy Herrera. She spoke in her apartment, which overlooks the street where the three were killed. She said she never heard the car attempt to brake, but heard only a very loud impact and then was told by a neighbor that an officer had run over her family members.

According to police, a test showed Gray had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. But Judge David Schmidt, who was sitting in Brooklyn Criminal Court, declined to order bail Sunday, and the officer was set free.

Gray was on his way to work his red 1996 Ford Windstar slammed into the family, police said. The impact sent the two sisters flying, and the young boy was trapped beneath the bumper and dragged at least 100 feet before the car stopped.

Gray was arrested by officers from his own precinct. He was charged with driving while intoxicated, second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

Gray told investigators he did not see the family in the intersection because of poor lighting.

The three victims were pronounced dead at a hospital. Doctors were able to deliver Herrera's baby, who was two weeks short of his due date, but hours later the father, Victor Herrera, made the decision to remove the infant from life support.

CNN Producer Rose Arce and Lauren Rivera contributed to this report.



• Office of the Mayor
• Sunset Park
• NYPD - Official New York City Police Department Web Site

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