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MIT student killed when allegedly intoxicated NYPD officer mows down a group of pedestrians

Moments after an allegedly intoxicated off-duty New York police officer popped a curb on a busy Brooklyn block and crashed into a crowd of friends, authorities said, bystanders trapped him in his car and tended to those bleeding on the ground.

The chaotic scene, which was captured on a cellphone video, unfolded in the early-morning hours Saturday in Williamsburg, where, authorities said, 28-year-old Nicholas Batka, who joined the police force in January last year, drove his Dodge Durango onto the sidewalk, striking four pedestrians.

One of them was killed and three others were severely wounded, according to a statement from police.

Batka now faces numerous charges, including vehicular assault, vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and criminally negligent homicide.

Just hours before Batka was scheduled to work a 7 a.m. Saturday shift for the Transit Borough Manhattan Task Force, police said, he was driving “erratically” when he made a right turn, mounting a sidewalk and barreling through a wrought-iron fence in front of a building, according to a criminal complaint.

Andrew Esquivel, a 21-year-old studying electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died hours later — suffering critical injuries to his head and chest. A fellow MIT student, 20-year-old Sophia Tabchouri, and a MIT graduate, 24-year-old James Balchunas, were also injured. Divya Menezes, a 23-year-old New York University student, suffered injuries to both legs, plus her arm and pelvis, police said. The victims were rushed to hospitals in Manhattan.

When first-responders arrived at the scene, they found Batka sitting in the passenger seat.

A witness told investigators that after the accident, the officer tried to slide from the driver’s-side seat to the passenger’s side to get out of the vehicle, because the driver’s-side door was blocked. But bystanders held the other door closed.

Authorities said he had “bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and the odor of alcohol” on his breath, but he refused more than once to let officers test his blood alcohol level, according to court documents.

Batka was taken to Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center for minor injuries, according to the documents. Officials told Newsday that he was arraigned that night and posted $300,000 bail and was released. It’s unclear whether Batka has an attorney.

Police said he has since been suspended without pay.

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