The family of a 28-year-old bicyclist allegedly struck and killed by a drunk driver in Montauk is calling for justice after the driver was released from East Hampton Town Justice Court on $1000 bail October 31.
Currently, Lisa Rooney, 30, of Montauk, the daughter of a New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruna DiBiase, is charged with a single count of first-time misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, but East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana said during Rooney’s arraignment that there is a degree of likelihood the charges Rooney is facing could be elevated to the felony level.
The victim, John James Usma-Quintero, was riding his bicycle up a steep hill on Flamingo Avenue October 30 as the sun was setting. He was headed north to his apartment at Lyckie’s from his job at 7-Eleven in downtown Montauk. At 6:03 PM, East Hampton Town police say Rooney, driving a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado headed toward her home in the Culloden Shores neighborhood, veered onto the shoulder, stuck Usma-Quintero, and possibly dragged him some distance. The truck, registered to Rooney’s business, Girltauk, eventually plowed into a guardrail about 30 yards further north. The truck was impounded by police as part of the investigation.
Suffolk County prosecutor Jamie Greenwood said during the arraignment police, who were on scene almost immediately, had interviewed witnesses to the incident.
Rooney admitted being the driver of the pickup, police said. “I don’t know what happened,” she allegedly told police. “I swerved to avoid a car who was in the middle of the road, and I hit the guardrail.” She said she did not know she had hit Usma-Quintero until police asked her about the bicyclist. “Is he OK?” she asked police.
Usma-Quintero’s bicycle was described by police as having been “demolished” by the impact of the pickup. According to the incident report, Usma-Quintero suffered a major chest injury and was “severely bleeding.” His physical condition was listed as “apparent death.” Montauk volunteer ambulance crew members attempted to revive him, but Usma-Quintero was pronounced dead on arrival at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.
After being placed under arrest, Rooney told police she was not hurt in the accident, and was taken to police headquarters, where she allegedly refused to take a breath test. Instead, police obtained a judicial warrant, and she was required to submit to having blood drawn, which is standard in cases involving potential DWI charges with a fatality. Back in Montauk, East Hampton Town detectives sealed off the crime scene, and, working with Suffolk County crime lab technicians, meticulously documented the visible evidence of the crash.
Less than 24 hours after his death, a cross had been staked in the ground where Usma-Quintero was struck, topped with flowers and a baseball cap. Usma-Quintero, who has two children in Colombia, arrived in Montauk in April on a work visa. He had been planning on going home soon to see his children, his aunt Mercedes Giavaldo said. She was at Rooney’s arraignment. Giavaldo said Usma-Quintero’s body will still be making that trip so that he can be buried in his native land.
“A thousand dollars to get out after killing somebody? It doesn’t make sense,” she said through a friend, who was translating.
Rana explained before setting bail that her hands have been essentially tied on the matter by the New York State Legislature, which has eliminated bail entirely for drunken driving cases — even those involving death. While that ban on bail technically begins January 1, any bail currently posted will have to be exonerated this December.
Jose Romero-Flores is currently serving time in county jail for a somewhat analogous case out of Montauk from 2018. He struck and severely injured a Manhattan woman during Memorial Day weekend last year. He pleaded guilty in January to vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident.
In Rooney’s case, she could be facing a more serious charge, vehicular manslaughter, depending upon the results of detectives’ investigation and of the blood test.