Two New York City police officers were placed on administrative duty while officials investigate whether they improperly pursued an ATV last week before it collided with an 18-wheeler, killing the driver of the ATV and his passenger, the police said.
The officers, Niketas Janios and Marya Cardona Quintero, were stripped of their guns and shields after the crash early Friday in Long Island City, Queens. The ATV was driving the wrong way on the Queensboro Bridge when the crash occurred, the police said.
The collision came after Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell announced the Police Department was ramping up enforcement against illegal dirt bikes and ATVs — part of a crackdown on quality-of-life offenses, an approach that fell out of favor under his predecessor.
“For years, these dirt bikes have zipped through the streets, not only pestering New Yorkers, but breaking laws and endangering lives,” the mayor said in a statement at the time of the June announcement.
Fabien Levy, the mayor’s spokesman, said the details of the crash are currently under investigation.
The ATV involved in the crash was traveling the wrong way on the eastbound lower roadway of the Queensboro Bridge shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Friday, the police said. It collided with a Freightliner truck, ejecting the 22-year-old driver of the ATV, Angel Lopez of the Bronx, and his passenger, whose name police did not release.
Mr. Lopez died at the scene, and his passenger was pronounced dead at NewYork Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital. The 36-year-old truck driver stayed at the scene but was not charged, the police said.
A man who said he was riding alongside Mr. Lopez later told The New York Daily News that police were chasing the ATV before the crash.
Julian Phillips, the top police spokesman, said the collision was being investigated by the Force Investigation Division.
If investigators find fault in the conduct of the officers, who worked in the 108th Precinct, they could face discipline ranging from a warning to a loss of vacation days or firing.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, the officers’ union, criticized the decision to discipline the officers on Sunday.
“The N.Y.P.D. needs to decide whether enforcing quality-of-life issues is really a priority,” he said. “These police officers and cops across the city have been told to prioritize getting illegal bikes and ATVs off the streets, because the community is sick of them. They should not be punished for doing the job they were sent out to do.”
Police Department policy allows officers to chase vehicles when necessary to catch a suspect, with officers being required to notify radio dispatchers and patrol supervisors immediately when they begin pursuit. But officers are required to end the chase when the risk to the public or themselves is greater than the benefit of a quick arrest.
When the mayor announced the crackdown, the police said that between Jan. 1 and June 16 this year, officers seized 1,921 dirt bikes and ATVs, compared to 1,022 over the same period in 2021 — an increase of nearly 88 percent.
The off-road vehicles lack safety equipment and are illegal in New York City, where riders can nonetheless be seen weaving through sidewalk and street traffic or cruising in processions down major thoroughfares.
They are often involved in collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles and generate a flood of 311 complaints about reckless driving and noise. The police say that criminals also use the vehicles to commit violent offenses such as shootings and robberies.