Charge upgraded for investigator accused in hit-run death

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2017 2:58 PM

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A prosecutor's investigator who moonlights as a part-time police officer was arraigned Friday on an upgraded charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident after the death of a teenager he is accused of hitting with his county-owned vehicle.

Peter Rauch, an investigator for the Onondaga County district attorney's office, is accused of striking 18-year-old Seth Collier with the vehicle early Tuesday and then fleeing on foot. Rauch's vehicle was found a block away in the parking lot at the Pastime Athletic Club, a private social club. His work identification and cellphone were found in the car.

Collier died at a hospital Thursday. His family said he had gotten off work at a Burger King restaurant and was walking to a friend's house when he was hit while crossing an intersection in Syracuse around 1:30 a.m.

"Surrounded by his family, our beloved son, nephew, grandchild and brother Seth Collier passed away late this afternoon," the family said in a statement. "We thank all our friends and family and many individuals who we never knew for their support and prayers. So that Seth may live on and help others, we are donating his organs."

According to court documents, the 37-year-old Rauch had a front-seat passenger in his car at the time of the accident. That man identified Rauch to police as the driver, the documents said. The passenger's name hasn't been released and he hasn't been charged.

City officials said Syracuse firefighter Edward "Ted" Ackerman, a 13-year veteran and a trained EMT, has been suspended in connection with the hit-and-run investigation, but no additional details were released.

The Pastime Athletic Club's website lists Ackerman as president of its board of directors. A message left at the club Friday for Ackerman or other board members seeking comment wasn't returned.

Rauch was fired Tuesday by the district attorney's office. District Attorney William Fitzpatrick called Rauch's actions "a betrayal."

"Anyone involved in an accident involving a county car must immediately report it to the chief investigator," Fitzpatrick said, according to The Post-Standard. "It didn't matter that the crash happened at 1:30 a.m."

Fitzpatrick said Rauch sometimes served as his driver, including on a recent work trip to New York City.

Rauch also was a three-year part-time officer for the police department in his hometown of Liverpool, where officials said he has been suspended without pay.

Rauch was ordered held in the county jail on bail after being arraigned Friday on the upgraded charge. He initially pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of leaving the scene of a serious personal injury accident, and he was released on bail.

It was not immediately clear if Rauch has hired an attorney.

His case is being handled by the district attorney's office in neighboring Oswego County.