Featured Story

Notice filed against town in DWI arrest of William Downing

William Downing, the Riverhead man who was initially arrested for driving while intoxicated after hitting a child, despite not being given a blood test, has filed a notice of claim against Riverhead Town, its police department, the Suffolk County Police Department, a number of unnamed individual police officers as well as unnamed officers who are responsible for disseminating information to the media.

The notice, which preserves the right to bring a lawsuit and was written by attorney Cory Morris of Dix Hills, says that Mr. Downing “sustained physical and emotional injuries in violation of claimant’s civil rights, including, but not limited to loss of freedom; loss of comfort; extreme mental stress, pain and suffering; scarring, psychological damages, damage to name and reputation, stigma, monetary damages, special damages/costs/fees, medical fees, costs, damages and related damages incurred by and on behalf of” the police.

It accuses the police of “recklessness, carelessness, gross negligence, negligence, intentional conduct, malicious conduct, violation of civil rights, and unlawful conduct.”

The notice does not specify what damages are being sought.

Mr. Downing, 77, hit a 5-year-old boy on a bicycle on Lewis Street and Doris Avenue at 6:41 p.m. Aug. 4.

He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, and police issued a press release describing the arrest.

Those charges were later dismissed by Riverhead Town Justice Lori Hulse on Aug. 20 at the recommendation of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Mr. Downing, who lives on Lewis Street, said he was going about 10 mph in his 2003 Cadillac Escalade when the bike was struck. He said he remained at the scene and called police, who wanted to know if he’d been drinking. He said he had had half a can of beer.

Mr. Downing’s attorney in town court, Daniel Rodgers of Southampton, had said that Mr. Downing was given a portable breath test at the scene that registered his blood alcohol content at .05, which is below the threshold for driving while intoxicated or the lesser charge of driving while ability impaired.

Mr. Rodgers said that the portable device is not considered as reliable at the breath test at police headquarters, which Mr. Downing was not given.

Mr. Downing was given a blood test, which takes weeks before results are available, and those results eventually showed that Mr. Downing was not intoxicated.

Mr. Downing was arrested at the scene based on the observations of the arresting officer, according to Mr. Rodgers.

The notice of claim says that police “knew and had reason to know that (Mr. Downing) did not drive while intoxicated” and that he was falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted and defamed, slandered and libeled.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller could not be reached for comment.

[email protected]

Photo caption: William Downing, right, with his attorney Daniel Rodgers outside Riverhead Town Justice Court. (Credit: Tim Gannon file photo)