NY cop beaten by thugs, shot by cop dies
BY LUIS PEREZ. STAFF WRITER
Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc.
Rookie police officer Eric Hernandez died at a Bronx hospital yesterday, two weeks after he was gunned down by a colleague in a case of mistaken identity outside a White Castle restaurant.
The 24-year-old officer, the star running back of the department's football team, underwent seven surgeries after arriving at St. Barnabas Hospital Center Jan. 28. A portion of his leg was amputated in one of them.
On Tuesday, a brain scan found little activity, crushing friends and relatives who were hoping for a dramatic recovery.
About 24 hours later, at 1:03 p.m. yesterday, Hernandez's family took him off life support, police and hospital officials said.
"His valiant struggle over the last several days was emblematic of the grit and determination he demonstrated as a police officer and as an athlete," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of Hernandez, who patrolled the Kingsbridge, Bedford Park and Norwood sections of the Bronx as a 52nd Precinct cop for two years. "He fought courageously to the very end, and he will be missed by us all."
Hernandez, a White Plains resident and bachelor who joined the force on July 1, 2004, is the fourth city police officer to be shot and killed since late November.
"His death weighs heavily on our hearts and minds," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Police said Hernandez's death was sparked by an argument inside the fast-food eatery. The off-duty officer had been drinking and was in plainclothes, police said. Six suspects were arrested for beating him, an incident that was caught on video.
Hernandez was shot outside the restaurant by on-duty police officer Alfredo Toro, who saw Hernandez pointing a gun at another man's head. Toro fired three times, hitting Hernandez once in each leg and in the stomach, hitting several arteries.
Police officials have charged that the beating may have impaired Hernandez's ability to hear Toro's shouts. Police said Toro, who apparently acted properly, identified himself as an officer.
Yesterday, just hours after Hernandez's passing, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney said a grand jury panel that was set to end tomorrow would review the case. A host of assault-related charges against the six suspects could be upgraded to account for Hernandez's death, the spokesman said.
"Final charges will be subject to the grand jury's review of the evidence and the law," said Steven Reed, the spokesman.
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