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Reckless driver bit NYPD officer's finger off, prosecutors say

A 28-year-old reckless driving suspect bit off the fingertip of a sergeant trying to place him in a holding cell, authorities allege.
Reckless driver bit NYPD officer's finger off, prosecutors say
Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 12, 2023

New York City police officer lost his left ring finger after a suspected drunk driver bit it off to the knuckle, prosecutors said.

The reckless driving suspect, Lenni Rodriguez Cruz, was arraigned on a 15-count indictment Wednesday related to the Sept. 20 incident, which also included a high-speed car chase and multiple collisions.

The ordeal began that evening at 11:40 p.m., when officers saw Rodriguez Cruz driving without a seat belt in a Nissan Altima with a license plate not registered to the vehicle.

When the officer began following the 28-year-old suspect with his patrol car's lights and sirens on, Rodriguez Cruz sped off, mounted a sidewalk and drove through a park, "scattering parkgoers who ran to safety," Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.

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Rodriguez Cruz continued driving, going the wrong way into oncoming traffic and running 20 red lights. He proceeded to hit four vehicles. 

The driver of one car he struck had to be treated at a hospital for multiple injuries, and another vehicle he slammed into had been an unmarked police car, which was part of a barricade set to stop him. The three officers in the police car were able to "jump out just before impact," Katz said.

Officers then pulled Rodriguez Cruz out of his crashed car to find he had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, breath smelling of alcohol and a cup containing an alcoholic beverage in the car with him, Katz said.

Once police tried to place him in a local station's holding cell, authorities allege Rodriguez Cruz struck, spat on and bit the tip off a sergeant's left ring finger. The officer required stitches and a revision amputation, leaving him without the use of the finger down to its first knuckle, Katz said.

Rodriguez Cruz now faces a multitude of charges ranging from first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

If convicted, the suspect faces up to 25 years in prison.

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