The New York Times

February 14, 2005


Crash in Brooklyn Kills Off-Duty Officer and Woman, 19

By MICHAEL WILSON

An off-duty police officer on his way to work and a 19-year-old woman on her way home from her birthday party were killed after a sport utility vehicle ran a stop sign and slammed into a car in Brooklyn yesterday morning, the police said.

The crash, at Putnam and Central Avenues in Bushwick, occurred when a Ford Excursion, carrying the 19-year-old woman, sailed through a stop sign, and crashed into a Honda Civic, driven by the police officer. Several other teenagers in the sport utility vehicle were injured.

Last night, the police arrested the woman's father, Gary Wilkerson, who was driving the S.U.V. He was charged with two counts of manslaughter, speeding, and operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, in addition to other charges. He was in critical condition at Brookdale University and Medical Center in Canarsie, a hospital spokesman said.

Mr. Wilkerson left the scene of the accident, which happened at 5:35 a.m., but later arrived at Brookdale, where he collapsed from internal injuries and was listed in critical condition, the authorities said.

The police officer was identified as Jehova B. Delgado, 27, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who joined the department in July 2001 and worked in the 75th Precinct in East New York. He was on his way to a 6 a.m. overtime shift with an Atlas unit, one of the teams of officers who increase police presence in parts of the city that may be targets of terrorists, and in high-crime areas.

Shannay Branch, the woman killed by the accident, was from Bushwick and would have turned 20 in a few days. She had been at a party in Bushwick with at least three other young women and two 20-year-old men, although there could have been one or two more people present, witnesses said.

The police said that Mr. Wilkerson, who was driving the S.U.V. and had as many as eight passengers, ran a stop sign while traveling south on Putnam Avenue, hitting Mr. Delgado's Honda Civic, which was traveling east on Central Avenue. The officer and Ms. Branch were ejected, the police said. The Expedition flipped on its side and slid into at least four parked vehicles.

The police could not locate Mr. Wilkerson until later in the morning and at first said that he had not necessarily fled and might have made his way to Brookdale on his own, but they later charged him with fleeing the accident scene. He collapsed before the severity of his injuries was known, his family said.

"He actually passed out inside the hospital," said Edward Jones, 37, an uncle of two of the teenagers in the vehicle. "He was standing there talking, and he just fell down."

At least two passengers were also treated at Brookdale. The police did not release their names yesterday. Other passengers were treated at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, and it was there that Ms. Branch was pronounced dead on arrival, the police said.

Jessica Richardson, 31, was asleep in her first-floor apartment when the crash woke her. "I heard a boom," she said. "I came outside the door. I saw a girl laying face first on the ground. The cop was laying on the ground around the corner. His body was all twisted up."

"A man was pinned under the blue van, yelling, 'Please get it off me,' " Ms. Richardson added. Others were telling another woman, believed to be Ms. Branch, "Get up, get up!" and three men lifted a car off her, she said.

Eight or nine people were injured. The young people in the S.U.V. were unsure of how many were in it.

"I woke up as soon as we were hit," one teenage girl with blood on her white jeans said in Brookdale. She was unwilling to identify herself, but said, "My sister died."

Officer Delgado had spent Saturday night celebrating Valentine's Day with his girlfriend of three years, Elsa Bracero, 33, and their friends, at Ms. Bracero's apartment. He had planned to give her a necklace bearing a little gold shield, she said. "He was chasing me around the table, pretending he was going to arrest me and trying to get me in a headlock," she said.

Later, he got up to leave for work. "He said, 'I love you.' I said, 'Be careful.' He said, 'What did you say?' and I said again, 'Be careful,' and he said, 'I'll see you later,' " she said.

Ms. Branch had taken a break from a college in South Carolina and came to New York to live with her grandmother and to work, relatives said.

The police officer's sister, Patricia Delgado, 25, said their parents were in Puebla, Mexico, but were flying to New York soon. "Even when he was small, he would act like he was the oldest," she said of her brother. "He wanted to go into the 75th Precinct. He wanted the challenge. He was an action kind of guy."

Jess Wisloski, Ann Farmer,Jennifer 8. Lee and Michelle O'Donnell contributed reporting for this article.