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Man gets 30 years for rundown death

December 9, 2016

BRIDGEPORT -Dennis Berrios sat calmly at the defense table Friday as he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for running a young man with his pickup truck, killing him.

Calmly was an aberration for the 38-year-old Berrios who has a history of unprovoked violence and recently, according to police, threatened to come back and kill everyone in a local diner because he thought his food was cold. And then threatened to kill the families of the police officers who responded to the scene.

Clearly, the judicial marshals who surrounded him in the courtroom had reason to be concerned.

“I express my deepest condolences to the family (of the victim),” Berrios read from a paper he held in his cuffed hands. I hope you can find a place in your heart to forgive me. I ask the court for mercy.”

But Superior Court Judge Maria Kahn said she couldn’t overlook Berrios’ past indiscretions.

“You care only about yourself and your needs,” she retorted. “When you believe you have been wronged in some way you react with violence. You pose an extreme danger to the community. You seem to have no understanding of what you have done, you took a man’s life.”

A jury had previously found Berrios guilty of first-degree manslaughter and evading responsibility for the Aug. 9, 2014, death of 21-year-old Tyron Tate, and then tampering with a witness and intimidating a witness in the trial.

Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney C. Robert Satti Jr. told the judge that Berrios ran over Tate to settle a neighborhood dispute and then to kill his own girlfriend after she decided to go to police.

“Some days I find myself crying when I look at my son’s photograph,” Tate’s father, Michael Tate, told the judge, tears streaming down his face.

“I ask myself why did this demon, this monster take my baby’s life. How do you sleep at night?” the victim’s mother, Janet Lopez, continued, staring at Berrios across the courtroom.

The judge sentenced Berrios to 40 years, suspended after he serves 30 years in prison and followed by five years’ probation.

Tate and his friend, Justin Griffin, had been walking to a store on Noble Avenue when Griffin testified he heard Tate yell, “Look out white boy,” Griffin’s nickname.

Police said as Griffin stepped out of the way Tate was struck and then run over by a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck driven by Berrios. The truck dragged Tate nearly 70 feet before taking off.

Tate, his head crushed, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Berrios was later arrested at his Park Street home. Police said he initially denied having anything to do with the crash, claiming he was at the opposite end of the state when it occurred.

However, faced with video showing his truck at the crash scene, Berrios later told detectives Tate and his friends had been throwing rocks at his truck.

“So I freaking hit the freaking gas and I hit the (expletive) kid,” Berrios is heard saying to police on a video that Satti played for the jury.

On the witness stand, Berrios told the jury he didn’t mean to hit Tate. He contended that after a rock hit his windshield he ducked below the dashboard and the steering wheel accidentally turned the truck towards Tate.

Berrios was also convicted of threatening his former girlfriend after learning she was going to be a witness against him.

Among the numerous threatening texts he sent her and were shown to the jury was one that stated, “Die (expletive) die.”