Wife sues cops over bat death in Forest Hills

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A Long Island man died after two NYPD officers allegedly beat him in the head with a baseball bat in Forest Hills, according to a lawsuit filed by his widow last week, but the NYPD said the man died when he fell to the ground after striking one of the officers with a weapon.

Michael J. Murphy of East Meadow, L.I., died April 10, eight days after his wife, Alane Avallone, said the officers “viciously” attacked Murphy at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and 76th Road. Murphy, 53, had been driving on Queens Boulevard before the incident, according to the lawsuit. Police said Murphy died after he rear-ended a cop car, fled the scene, struck an officer with a baseball bat and then hit his head when he fell to the ground after a cop punched him.

The city medical examiner’s office ruled Murphy’s death a homicide. The office said he died from “complicati­ons of blunt impact to head,” a spokeswoman for the examiner said.

Avallone, 55, filed the civil lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and Police Officers Frankie Solar Jr. and Richard Pimental in Queens Civil Court May 25.

According to the suit, Murphy was driving along Queens Boulevard April 2 around 6:50 p.m. when “he was caused to be removed from his vehicle and was brutally and viciously beaten by” the police officers.

During the attack, the two officers, who the New York Post reported are still on duty, “repeatedly struck claimant in the head and about his body with a baseball bat with such force that claimant was rendered unconscious,” the suit said.

Following the alleged beating, Solar and Pimental “attempted to discard” the weapon, according to the lawsuit.

Avallone said in the lawsuit that Murphy’s doctor said her husband “suffered at least three blunt force trauma injuries from a moving object to his head,” which caused his death.

A Police Department spokesman said the two officers were driving on the Grand Central Parkway to their jobs in the 110th Precinct when they were rear-ended by a car driven by Murphy, who the spokesman said fled the scene. After the police officers followed him onto Queens Boulevard, the NYPD said Murphy got out of his car and hit one of the officers with a baseball bat, after which the officer punched him in the face.

Murphy then fell to the ground and struck his head, according to the NYPD. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where police said he was charged with driving while intoxicated, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of the accident.

Avallone and Murphy had been married since November 1998.

The NYPD was still conducting an internal investigation into the incident. The Queens district attorney’s office had no comment on whether it was looking into possible criminal charges.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 5:50 pm, October 10, 2011
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