'They murdered my brother': Off-duty officer charged in fatal car crash
Officer Adam Soto is charged in the death of Daniel Dimitri, who was hit while crossing Cottman Avenue. Another officer is being suspended from the force.
Three months after a 50-year-old Northeast Philly man was struck and killed by a car, the off-duty police officer who was driving was hit with criminal charges.
Philadelphia police officer Adam Soto was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter and homicide by vehicle for the Jan. 31 death of Daniel Dimitri.
First Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Martin declined to comment on whether two other off-duty officers reportedly involved in the crash, one of whom was allegedly driving another car and one who was a passenger in Soto’s car, could face any charges.
"We’re continuing to investigate," she said.
Soto, 25, and the other off-duty officer who was driving, officer Tony Forest, 24, were both suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss. Both are three-year veterans of the force,
Dimitri’s sister, Cherylann Dimitri, wants a full investigation and criminal charges filed against all three men allegedly involved in the crash.
“They murdered my brother,” she said at a news conference held Wednesday with family members outside the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. “When you’re driving that fast, 80 to 90 mph, that’s murder.”
Soto may have been drag racing with another off-duty officer, Cherylann said.
Dimitri died after being hit around 11:30 a.m., while crossing the street near Cottman and Algon avenues near Northeast High School.
Soto was driving a silver 2015 Subaru "at a high rate of speed" at the time of the crash, police said.
According to the original police report released in February, he told investigators that as he was driving eastbound, Dimitri "ran across the street [noncrosswalk] into his path of travel" and he "was unable to avoid hitting the pedestrian."
A chef at Chuck’s Alibi seafood restaurant, Dimitri was reportedly crossing the street to catch a bus to work to pick up his paycheck at the time. He was pronounced dead at Aria-Torresdale Hospital an hour later.
Police said Wednesday their investigation found Forest "was operating his personal vehicle recklessly at the same time and in the same direction as Officer Soto," but did not comment on rumors that the two off-duty cops were drag-racing at the time.
Cherylann Dimitri recalled her brother as “good to everybody” and said they used to cook together regularly.
“Strangers who met him loved him. He was good to his family,” she said, weeping.
Soto’s attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., denied the charges and told Fox 29, "The evidence will show this was a catastrophic accident and not a crime."
Dimitri, of Rhawnhurst, said she suspected at first her brother’s death would be swept under the rug.
“A lot of witnesses were very actually really upset that nothing about this hit the media the next day,” she said.
“This is not anti-police,” said Ryan Adams, a friend of the family. “But if nothing happens, people are gonna assume the worst. We just want to see the right thing done.”