By Dave Altimari, email@example.com
November 16, 2010
The attorney representing the off-duty Windsor Locks police officer who struck and killed a teenage bicyclist acknowledged Monday that his client was drinking at a bar before the crash and that responding officers never asked him to submit to a blood/alcohol test.
But Hartford attorney Elliot B. Spector said Michael Koistinen was not drunk — and was not on his cellphone — when his car struck and killed 15-year-old Henry Dang in Windsor Locks just before midnight on Oct. 29.
The Courant has reported that state police investigators have determined Koistinen was drinking at the Suffield Tavern and outside a University of Connecticut football game in the hours before the crash. Dang's family has raised questions about how the initial local police investigation was handled, including why no blood/alcohol test was given to Koistinen, why he wasn't asked to take a Breathalyzer test and why his father, Windsor Locks Sgt. Robert Koistinen, was allowed to oversee the initial accident scene.
In addition to revealing that the responding officers did not request a breath test, Spector said that once Koistinen arrived at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, the officer called an attorney, who advised him not to let the hospital draw blood because the results could be later be obtained by police through a court order.
Spector declined to say how much his client had to drink before the crash or how he was able to determine that Koistinen was not legally drunk, given that no tests were administered.
Michael Koistinen was driving on Spring Street when he struck Henry as the boy tried to cross the intersection with West Street on his way home from a friend's house.
State police have taken over the investigation from a regional accident team that was called by local police to handle the investigation. Officers from that team did not arrive on the scene until more than an hour after the accident occurred.
In his first public comments on Michael Koistinen's behalf, Spector also said:
• Michael Koistinen wasn't on his cellphone at the time of the crash. State police have obtained a search warrant for his cellphone records.
• Henry's bicycle had no reflectors or lights on it, making it virtually impossible to see, given the poor lighting on the road.
• The traffic light at the intersection was green for the officer as he traveled west on Spring Street. Police have not commented on whether the officer had the right of way.
• Michael Koistinen was on his way to the police station, even though he was not due to work.
"When the accident occurred, it was the first time that the officer even saw the bike or the kid,'' Spector said. "He feels terrible that this has happened to the Dang family. We are hoping that the state police investigation will show that this was just a tragic accident."
Spector also said that Robert Koistinen wasn't involved in the investigation once he realized it involved his son.
"[Robert Koistinen] had no way of knowing that his son was involved in the accident until he got there and saw him standing in the middle of the road,'' Spector said. "At that point, he called the dispatch center and told them to notify the chief and to call the regional accident team to take over the case."
The North Central Municipal Regional Accident Reconstruction Team was notified of the accident at 12:16 a.m. The first officer from that team arrivied just after after 1 a.m. Spector said he doesn't know if an officer from the regional team went to Johnson Memorial Hospital to try to interview Koistinen. Spector said Robert Koistinen met his son at the hospital after going back to the police station.
Windsor Locks Police Chief John Suchocki said he was notified at 12:13 a.m. that there had been a serious accident involving one of his officers. Suchocki said he doesn't know what time he got to the scene, but Spector said Michael Koistinen was still there and spoke to the chief.
Sources said state police are conducting a two-pronged investigation. The first part centers on the crash itself — with an emphasis on establishing a timeline of Michael Koistinen's actions in the hours before his car struck the teen. In addition to a video showing Michael Koistinen drinking at the Suffield Tavern, state police sources said they have witnesses that can place Michael Koistinen drinking at a tailgate party proceeding the UConn-West Virginia football game in East Hartford.
The second aspect deals with how the initial investigation was handled by Windsor Locks police and the regional team.
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