James O'Neill "sounded intoxicated' in a telephone conversation with a co-worker several hours before he allegedly ran down Danbury police officer Donald Hassiak on June 3, according to a court document.

Mr. O'Neill was so drunk he could barely stand when Bethel police found him sleeping in a broken-down van nearly four hours after the hit-and-run accident on a darkened Route 7 in New Milford, police said in an affidavit released Wednesday.

Because investigators lacked proof Mr. O'Neill was actually driving under the influence when his battered Buick Skylark allegedly struck and killed Mr. Hassiak as the decorated, 16-year police veteran bicycled to work, the most serious charge he faced when he was arraigned in state Superior Court in Bantam on Wednesday was misconduct with a motor vehicle, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of one to five years in prison.

"What this boils down to is you can't prove he didn't drink after the accident," said Lt. James Duda ,the New Milford police spokesman.

People who knew the 47-year-old carpenter told police that Mr. O'Neill had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, police said. His ex-wife said he was proud of his ability "to drink and party for days at a time," according to the affidavit.

A former landlord said Mr. O'Neill was "a good tenant, but he did like his beer," and his lengthy record of arrests and convictions included several in which alcohol and drugs were factors, police said.

The 16-page arrest warrant affidavit also lays out in excruciating detail the evidence that led authorities to charge Mr. O'Neill.

It includes the account of witnesses riding in a pickup truck who say they saw his car speed past them just as a friend in a trailing vehicle called to tell them there was a man lying on the side of the road and debris was scattered all over.

When police found Mr. O'Neill's car, parked alongside the van that served as his living quarters near a home under construction on Sara's Way in Bethel, the front end was extensively damaged, the windshield was broken, and scraps of material matching Officer Hassiak's reflective clothing were embedded in it, police said.

Police estimated Mr. O'Neill had been traveling between 42 and 56 miles per hour when the car allegedly hit Officer Hassiak's bike from behind, tossing them more than 120 feet. The first officer on the scene said Officer Hassiak had no pulse, and he was pronounced dead at Danbury Hospital a short time later.

Although investigators said the victim's bike was equipped with lights and safety gear, and he was wearing protective clothing, one of the men in the pickup truck remarked Officer Hassiak should get a bigger light when they drove past him, according to the affidavit.

Several members of Officer Hassiak's family, including his mother and father, brother, aunt, and another man were in the courtroom Wednesday when Mr. O'Neill made his first appearance in the case before Judge Corinne Klatt.

The family declined comment when approached after the hearing by several news and television reporters.

"It's a very tough process for them," Victim Services Advocate Cheryl Ferris said.

Mr. O'Neill, who was incarcerated on unrelated charges, was represented by a public defender. The case was transferred to Superior Court in Litchfield, where the more serious cases are tried, and was continued to Aug. 16.