Blue Lights, Road Rage Said Involved as New Jersey Rescue Squad Member Hits Off-Duty NYPD Officer

A volunteer rescue worker from Upper Saddle River ran down and killed an off-duty New York City police officer in an apparent case of drunken road rage, authorities said Monday.

Robert "Chase" Derian, 23, was driving a Jeep Cherokee that rear-ended the Bronx cop's motorcycle after the two possibly exchanged words on the Henry Hudson Parkway just after Sunday midnight, police officials said.

Officer Eric Concepcion, a 29-year-old father of two, was dragged 220 feet under the SUV, they said. He died around 2 a.m. Monday at St. Luke's Roosevelt Medical Center.

Police took Derian into custody after he registered 0.12 percent on a breath test following the crash, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. The legal limit is 0.08 percent. Derian was charged with vehicular homicide, manslaughter, unauthorized use of emergency lights and driving while intoxicated, Kelly said.

Late Monday, New York police were transferring Derian, a volunteer member of the Saddle River Valley Rescue Squad, from the 28th Precinct in Harlem to criminal court in lower Manhattan, where bail was to be set.

The incident began around 12:15 a.m. Monday, when the officer and a friend on a second motorcycle pulled up alongside the SUV, Kelly said.

Derian then followed Concepcion with a blue emergency light flashing before the Jeep struck the rear of the officer's black sport bike, Kelly said.

"Words may have been exchanged -- we're not certain," Kelly said. "[Derian] had a blue light that he plugged into his cigarette lighter. He either tried to pull them over or somehow intimidate the individuals on the motorcycles."

Around 134th Street, "the car strikes the officer on the motorcycle, then rolls over him, killing him," the commissioner said.

The blue light and a placard that read "Captain" were still visible when the red Jeep was towed to a nearby police precinct Monday afternoon. Saddle River Valley Rescue Squad officials said Derian is not a captain and were at a loss to explain the placard.

As a volunteer, Derian was authorized to use a flashing light in emergencies, said his supervisor, Stephen Flatly, who declined to comment further.

An attorney for Derian called claims of road rage "unfounded" and said the crash occurred when Concepcion's motorcycle merged into his client's lane.

"It was just an unfortunate accident where two vehicles collided with one another," said the attorney, Kevin Roe.

Derian stopped after the crash, immediately called 911, and then rendered aid to Concepcion, said another attorney, James Kridel.

"911 is on the way," Kridel said Derian told the mortally injured officer.

After learning late Monday afternoon that Concepcion had died, Derian told the lawyers he was "extremely upset" and wanted to extend his sympathies to the officer's family, Kridel said.

Concepcion joined the NYPD in 2000 and was assigned to the 42nd Precinct, where he worked the Yankee Stadium detail, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. He lived with his wife, Melissa, and their two daughters, 1 and 4, in an apartment on East 176th Street.

"They'll grow up and never remember their father," Bloomberg said. "He worked day in and day out to make our lives safer. ... It breaks all of our hearts."

Derian, who recently lived with his parents on Lenape Trail, is a 2001 graduate of Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale. He joined the Saddle River Valley Rescue Squad in 1997 as a junior member and became a full member in 2001.

Flatly said he didn't know Derian well, but knew that he had varied interests.

"It's not like you could find him in the same spot every day," he said. "I saw him washing the car yesterday [at the rescue squad]."

His lawyers confirmed that Derian has spent the past several months as a real estate associate in Boca Raton, Fla., but it's not clear how he volunteered for the rescue squad in New Jersey while selling homes in Florida. Records show his parents, Robert and Karen, bought a condo less than a mile from the Florida resort town for $325,000 in 2004.

"He's been with me for two or three months," said Tony Mungro, office manager at Boca Beach South Realty.

Mungro said he had not seen Derian for several weeks and just "assumed he was on vacation up north."

In an October 2004 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Derian said he spent days sifting through the rubble at the World Trade Center in a search for survivors following the 9/11 attacks.

Derian's father, Robert, is an alternate member of the Upper Saddle River Planning Board, municipal officials said. Nobody answered the door or the telephone at the family's home Monday.

"This is not an uncaring family," said Kridel. "They are a very supportive family. I've known them for a very long time."

He called Derian "a very caring and helpful person who volunteered his time [to help others]."

The northbound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway were closed for much of Monday morning and afternoon as the NYPD investigated the crash. Police said they were also searching for Concepcion's service weapon, which apparently was thrown from his body.

Using a blue light:

Under New Jersey law, blue emergency warning lights may be used only when:

Republished with permission of North Jersey Media.