Philadelphia police officer faces DUI, homicide by vehicle charges

PHILADELPHIA - September 27, 2013

Sgt. Thomas Winkis faces charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, DUI, involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.

Investigators say Winkis was at the wheel of a silver Dodge Challenger when it T-boned a van at 11:40 p.m. Saturday, September 14th at State Road and Ashburner Street in Holmesburg.

The driver of the van, 55-year-old David Farries, died of his injuries the following Tuesday morning.

Action News has learned more about the evidence that led to Winkis' suspension and indictment.

Sources say that the black box recovered from Winkis' Challenger shows that he was traveling at 101 m.p.h. at the time of the accident. Sources also say the officer's blood alcohol level was .17, just above twice the legal limit.

Before the accident, sources say, Winkis was at Maggie's Waterfront Café in Torresdale with a female companion. She told investigators, and surveillance video confirmed, that they had a number of beers and shots of Jaegermeister.

The well-respected officer, who worked for the office of Deputy Commissioner Thomas Wright, was not answering his door Friday at his home. We did speak with his lawyer, Fortunato Perri, one of the city's top criminal defense attorneys.

"He is obviously saddened by this tragic accident that cost someone their life," said Perri. "At this point, we look forward to evaluate fairly the evidence."

Meanwhile, David Farries' daughters were elated that Winkis has finally been charged.

"I feel like a little kid that woke up and got everything they wanted for Christmas," said Nicole Pirrone. "This is the best news that we've heard so far."

"That's what he deserves," said Chris Farries. "They need to throw the book at him. They need to make an example out of him so other police officers know they cannot just go out and drink and take someone's life."

"The only time we could ever visit our father is at a cemetery. The only time," said Farries.

Winkis has turned in his badge and gun to Internal Affairs. His arraignment and bail hearing are scheduled for next week.

Word that Winkis would face criminal charges in the case came late Friday afternoon. The Philadelphia District Attorney's office announced the charges shortly after police released the results of an Internal Affairs investigation into the crash.

As result of its internal probe, the police department has filed administrative charges against Winkis, charges which include driving under the influence while off-duty and engaging in any action that constitutes the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor.

Based on those internal charges, Commissioner Charles Ramsey suspended Winkis for 30 days with intent to dismiss.

Action News had knowledge of Winkis' identity but did not release it until his suspension and the administrative charges were announced Friday.

The crash that killed Farries happened just days after Winkis buried his ex-wife.

It was Labor Day when Winkis' ex-wife, who was also an officer, collapsed at her police station.

She had suffered an aneurysm and died four days later. Then, two days after her funeral, Winkis was involved in this crash.

Farries grew up in Kensington and leaves behind four daughters and seven grandchildren. His family says he was the ultimate caregiver who took care of everybody in his life.

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