On Sunday, just after midnight, a 13-year-old girl with Down Syndrome was fatally struck by a driver on the Hempstead Turnpike. The driver fled, but on Monday, a retired NYPD police officer surrendered to authorities. His lawyer said he thought he hit a traffic cone.
According to Newsday, Bryanna Soplin's "family members said she wandered away from her Levittown home in what may have been an attempt to visit her grandfather a couple of miles away in Hicksville."
Her mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, said that police "have witnesses that saw that Bryanna was actually waiting at the light to turn in order for her to cross the street. They did see that car actually pass through the red light and struck her and just kept going without stopping."
The investigation is ongoing, and it's unclear if the girl was in the crosswalk or had the right of way at Gardiners Avenue. Surveillance footage may also show how fast Elarado was driving.
Elarado, 48, is being held on $1 million bail. His lawyer Michael DerGarabedian said, "He did not believe he hit a person. There was an impact, but he did didn't believe he hit anyone. This is one of the most dangerous intersections in the United States."
Still, Newsday reports, "The court paper said there was 'substantial damage' to the front of the vehicle on the driver's side." Her family thinks the driver should have stopped to help; Curuchaga said to WCBS 2, "If it was a piece of garbage, if it was an animal, a raccoon, a dog, a person, you should have stopped. It doesn’t matter what you hit. Your car got damaged. Why would you not stop knowing that your front light came off or to see what the damage is. What happened?"
DerGarabedian added, "I am not articulate to say how remorseful he is. He has been going through hell for the past three days."
The minivan that Elarado was driving was not registered to him. Elarado, a single father of four, retired from the NYPD in 1998 on disability.