Joseph and Thomas Occhiogrosso – Bikers Against Drunk Drivers

Joseph and Thomas Occhiogrosso

The two brothers died on Thursday, four days after they were struck and killed on Hempstead Turnpike early Sunday morning by a BMW driven by a Garden City man who was charged with drunken driving. Most family members and friends were too choked up with emotion to speak as they visited a makeshift memorial of flowers and photos at the crash site earlier this week. Some of them attended the Monday morning arraignment of James Farr, 33, on two counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of DWI. Police said that Farr hit the two pedestrians while driving drunk in his 2005 BMW at about 4:15 a.m. on Sunday. “He took my brothers,” Paul Occhiogrosso said to reporters outside the courtroom. Joseph and Thomas Occhiogrosso were struck in the center westbound lane of the turnpike, just east of the intersection of Conti Square Boulevard, as they crossed the street from north to south, detectives said. Joseph, 28, of East Meadow, was transported to the Nassau University Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries at about 5:58 a.m. Thomas, 27, who grew up in East Meadow and lived in Riverhead, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Farr, a staff sergeant in the communications bureau of the 1st Marine Corps Division in Garden City, was held without bail by Judge Donald Birnbaum at the arraignment in Hempstead. Farr, who served three tours in Iraq, pleaded not guilty and was due back in court on Wednesday. According to police, each count of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Police said that Farr had a preliminary blood alcohol content reading of 0.21 percent. The legal limit in Nassau County is .08 percent. As the Herald went to press, results from an additional blood test had yet to be released. Farr’s attorney, Marvin Kirsch, reportedly said that the brothers “darted out of nowhere,” making it difficult for his client to avoid hitting them. At press time, police had not yet stated how fast Farr was driving or where he and the victims were coming from or going at the time of the accident. Detective Lt. John Azzata, commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Homicide Squad, said on Monday that an investigation should answer those questions, and the charges against Farr could change. “We are continuing our investigation,” Azzata said. “As that investigation continues, the charges that were previously described may be upgraded due to circumstances that we uncover.” Detectives request that anyone with information about the incident contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-TIPS. All call will remain anonymous, they said. Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey noted that recent efforts by police and county officials to combat drunken driving, including a demonstration at Nassau Community College last week, have led to more arrests, but have not ended alcohol-related accidents. “Despite all of that notoriety, we continue to have these tragedies,” Mulvey said. “We don’t have an answer to why this continues.” Hempstead Turnpike was closed to traffic in both directions for several hours following the incident, but reopened at around 11 a.m. Joseph Occhiogrosso, a plumber, was known for taking care of his elderly grandmother in her East Meadow home. Thomas, who was known by many as T.J., was an inactive reservist in the U.S. Navy who served two tours in Iraq. He was also a former member of the East Meadow Fire Department before he moved to Riverhead, where he lived with his wife, Erin, and daughter, Cecilia. Thomas and Joseph were the sons of Jeanne and the late Angelo Occhiogrosso; the brothers of Paul (Margaret Carey) Occhiogrosso, Annmarie Karazia (Charles) and Anthony Occhiogrosso; uncles of Isabella and Madeleine Karazia; and grandsons of Mary Occhiogrosso and Anna Sullivan. The Occhiogrosso family planned to receive friends at the Charles J. O’Shea Funeral Home in East Meadow on Tuesday and Wednesday. A Mass was scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Brigid R.C. Church at 75 Post Avenue in Westbury. According to a Facebook group, “In Memory of T.J. and Joe Occhiogrosso,” created by friends and family, a memorial fund for Thomas’s daughter is being arranged by Margaret and Paul Occhiogrosso.