Victim’s Family to NYPD: Tell Us What Happened to Our Son

"All we know is what we have read in the papers," said Erika Lefevre about the hit-and-run collision that killed her son Mathieu. Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

The family of Mathieu Lefevre, the 30-year-old artist killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike in East Williamsburg last week, was joined by dozens of supporters outside 1 Police Plaza today to demand that NYPD rein in deadly driving and end its policy of silence when it comes to fatal traffic crashes.

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, began the rally by reading from a list of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers killed this year at the hands of motorists who faced no charges of any kind. While drivers continue “killing with impunity on a daily basis,” said White, NYPD has “consistently failed” to take action to stop the violence.

In 2010, White said, 269 people died in New York City traffic. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of preventable death for the city’s children, and from 2000 to 2009 more New Yorkers were killed by cars than guns. Addressing his remarks to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, White said: “You are failing to enforce a basic standard of due care.”

The devastation wrought by the city’s traffic fatality epidemic is made worse by NYPD’s practice of withholding crash information, even from family members of victims. Lefevre’s parents traveled from western Canada immediately upon hearing of their son’s death. Since then, said his mother Erika, they have learned little about the crash.

“All we know is what we have read in the papers,” said Lefevre. Last Friday, the Lefevres waited all day at NYPD headquarters, but were told nothing. No one was available to speak with them over weekend, said Lefevre, and since Monday they have been passed from desk to desk. NYPD revealed to the family that the truck that hit Mathieu, identifiable from visible damage, was found two blocks from the crash site, and that the driver was located through the company that owns the truck. The Lefevres were not given the name of the company or the driver. As for the crash itself, the only details they have been made privy to are time and location. Lefevre said the family was told today that “charges were dropped” against the driver, though she isn’t sure charges were filed in the first place.

Lefevre said that, according to police, the driver of the truck that killed Mathieu was “likely unaware” of the collision.

Intensifying the agony of the families of crash victims is as deeply ingrained in NYPD culture as the department’s laissez-faire approach to traffic enforcement. White said the buck stops at the top.

“Ultimately, what needs to happen is we need leadership,” said White, calling on Kelly and, especially, Bloomberg to tap the city government talent pool to reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

In the case of Mathieu Lefevre, White believes the driver should at minimum be charged under the state’s vulnerable user laws, which have yet to be applied with any regularity by NYPD since they were adopted a year ago.

In the meantime, the Lefevres continue to wait for answers. Erika Lefevre said the last time she talked to her son, who rode his bike regularly during the one and a half years he lived in Brooklyn, was when he called her on October 10, her birthday.

“Mathieu’s life was cut short before he had a chance to develop into what he would become,” Lefevre said. “It is very important that we know the circumstances of our son’s death.”