- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) - A driver who allegedly struck and killed an off-duty New York City police officer in a hit-and-run accident on the New Jersey Turnpike has made his initial court appearance.

William Espinal-Mejia pleaded not guilty Wednesday to leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

The 35-year-old Linden man’s lawyer said his client stopped after hitting 25-year-old Vincent Harrison and got out to help the victim. But he says Espinal-Mejia drove off when he saw an approaching tractor-trailer that started to jack-knife, fearing for his and his family’s safety.

State police have said Harrison’s car collided with an SUV early Sunday. He got out of his car and was on the shoulder of the turnpike when he was fatally struck by Espinal-Mejia’s vehicle, which left the scene.

New York officials say Harrison was assigned to a Queens precinct.

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