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Former cop thought teen with Down syndrome he ran over was traffic cone: lawyer

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LEVITTOWN, Long Island (PIX11) — Could a former NYPD cop have mistaken a teenager for a traffic cone?

That’s what the lawyer for Michael Elardo said happened just after midnight Sunday morning.

“He thought he hit a traffic cone,” lawyer Michael DerGarabedian said after Elardo’s arraignment at Nassau Criminal Court Tuesday.

Elardo is charged with leaving the scene of an accident on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. His bail was set at  $1 million.

The victim in this hit and run was Bryanna Soplin, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome.

“He knew he hit somebody and he didn’t want to take the responsibility right there. Because he was probably afraid,” Bryanna’s mother Jennifer Curuchaga said Tuesday.

The family believes Bryanna left the house late Saturday after everyone went to bed. She was likely trying to get to her grandparents’ house.

Dergarabedian said as soon as the 48-year-old Syosset resident saw news reports Sunday morning, he had his vehicle brought to police.

“And police determined more likely than not that was the car involved and as soon as they asked him he turned himself in.”

Elardo is a former NYPD police officer who retired and is on disability.

Bryanna’s mother said Tuesday that her daughter was 140 pounds and there is no way someone could hit her and not realize it.

“He knew it and know he is just trying to clean his hands in saying it was just a cone. But he knew it was a person.”

Elardo faces up to five years in prison. His lawyer denies he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.