KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS, The Bronx (WABC) -- An NYPD sergeant accused of hurling a cooler that led to the death of a man in the Bronx was arraigned Tuesday on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault.
Sgt. Erik Duran, 37, pleaded not guilty in connection with the Aug. 23 death of 30-year-old Eric Duprey during a drug bust last year.
The case has sparked outrage on both sides -- a community is rallying for justice as supporters of the sergeant say the legal system is painting a hard-working cop as the criminal.
Ahead of Tuesday's hearing, there was a strong show of support from more than a dozen NYPD officers in uniform. Members of Black Lives Matter of Greater NY also made a bold statement as they chanted before entering the courtroom for the proceedings.
"You're trained to make a split second decisions, police officers are trying to make split-second decisions, show me somewhere, anywhere in the country where in training they are taught to pick up coolers and throw them at people accused of a crime," said Hawk Newsome with Black Lives Matter of Greater NY.
The NYPD sergeant, a 14-year veteran, should have known better than to throw a cooler at a fleeing drug suspect, prosecutors said in unsealing his manslaughter indictment Tuesday morning. The cooler was so heavy that Duran needed two hands to toss it at Duprey, she added, calling it excessive force.
Police say the undercover officer threw a plastic cooler at Duprey's head as he tried to flee on his moped, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ground. The father of three later died at the hospital.
Attorney Jonathan Roberts released a statement from Duprey's family saying that seeing Duran in handcuffs was little consolation for relatives struggling to understand how an "officer could behave so recklessly as to kill a young man who posed no threat whatsoever."
A lawyer for the sergeant said Duprey is dead because of his own actions, and put everyone at risk by speeding away on the sidewalk on his scooter.
"Sergeant Duran made a split-second decision to prevent serious injury or death to those citizens and officers," attorney John D'Alessandro said. "This indictment sends a clear message to society and every law enforcement officer in this state: In today's New York, the streets belong to the criminals."
Following Duprey's death, Duran was suspended without pay as the NYPD conducted an investigation.
The Medical Examiner's office ruled Duprey's death a homicide with blunt force trauma to the head following the incident.
According to Duran's disciplinary record, there's a substantiated complaint in 2022 for abusing his authority during a stop, according to the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Bail was set at $150,000 cash. Duran, who was ordered to surrender his passport, returns to court April 18.
The sergeants' union called the case an overzealous prosecution.
"Sgt. Duran made a split-second decision that was predicated solely on his concern for the safety of others. Now he has become the latest victim of a legal system that treats honest hard-working cops as criminals and criminals as victims," President of Sergeants Benevolent Association Vincent Vallelong said.
Asked about Duran's case, New York Mayor Eric Adams said it was up to the attorney general to handle. But "that's not a policy we use, throwing a cooler," noted Adams, a Democrat and retired police captain.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)