Woman: Taxi driver punched me before deadly altercation

04/30/2012 3:55 PM |

A woman involved in the fatal incident in Hampton Bays two weeks ago that resulted in a Riverhead man’s death has claimed the killed taxi driver punched her in the jaw during a dispute in a parking lot.

Faith Miller of Hampton Bays said she was driving on Bay Avenue on April 21 when a taxi driver “blew through a stop sign” on Norbury Road, causing her to swerve off the road.

Ms. Miller said she later found the cab parked in the lot behind the Chase Bank on Montauk Highway about 3 p.m. and confronted the driver who cut her off, identified by police as Robert Levasseur, 53, of Riverhead, who worked for Four Ones Taxi Service.

“I was yelling, I was upset, but that was the end of it,” Ms. Miller said. “I didn’t chase him down.”

She claimed Mr. Levasseur got out of his taxi, told her to “shut … up” and punched her in the jaw. Ms. Miller said she was backing away from Mr. Levasseur when a nearby friend, Kenneth Tofty-Forrest, 28, of Hampton Bays, approached Mr. Levasseur and struck him once from behind.

“He, out of all the witnesses [at the incident], did something,” Ms. Miller said. “[He] comes running across the parking lot, punches him once and [Mr. Lavasseur] hits the ground.”

Mr. Totfy-Forrest then called police, she said. Ambulance volunteers at the scene treated Ms. Miller for a contusion to her left jaw.

Mr. Levasseur, who twice served in the Air Force, earning the rank of staff sergeant, was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment and later transferred to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he died early Thursday of his injuries, Southampton Town police Sgt. Lisa Costa said Friday.

Mr. Tofty-Forrest was arrested and charged with third-degree assault at the time of the incident, Sgt. Costa said. He was processed, arraigned in Southampton Justice Court and held at the Suffolk County jail on $5,000 bail, though he was later re-arraigned in town court and released on $500 bail, police said.

Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, said Friday that “the defendant is charged with third degree assault and the investigation is ongoing.”

Southampton Police could not be reached to confirm Ms. Miller’s account.

Ms. Miller said she was frustrated that the Southampton police would not allow her to press charges against Mr. Levasseur at the time of the incident due to the severity of his injury.

She added that she has spoken to Mr. Tofty-Forrest’s attorney and the Suffolk County assistant district attorney handling the case. Though Ms. Miller didn’t know Mr. Tofty-Forrest well, she said she “will do whatever I need to do to have him not go to jail for this because this was not this fault.”

“I will be there,” she said. “I will stand behind him no matter what. If he wasn’t there, I could’ve been that driver and I have three kids.”

psquire@timesreview.com

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