NYPD: Teacher Killed by Cop in Crosswalk “Assumed Risk” by Crossing Street

NYPD and the city Law Department are fighting a lawsuit filed by the family of a Brooklyn man who was killed in a crosswalk by an on-duty officer, on the grounds that the victim behaved recklessly by crossing the street.

Felix Coss was crossing Broadway at Hooper Street in Williamsburg, in a crosswalk with the signal, on the afternoon of July 6, 2013, when Officer Paula Medrano of the 90th Precinct struck him with a marked police van while turning left. Coss, a 61-year-old veteran Spanish teacher, suffered severe head injuries and died that night at Bellevue Hospital.

Felix Coss. Photo via DNAinfo

Video of the crash shows Medrano stopped at the Hooper Street crosswalk on the north side of the intersection as Coss, approaching from the south, stops for the signal. When the light changes, Coss enters the Broadway crosswalk, still facing Medrano, as Medrano accelerates into the intersection and turns left, driving directly into Coss and knocking him to the asphalt.

The NYPD crash report says Medrano “had the green light,” but does not indicate Coss was crossing with the walk signal and had the right of way.

Following up on a witness statement that Medrano was on her cell phone at the time of the crash, the Internal Affairs Bureau subpoenaed her phone records, according to the Daily NewsBut just two days after Coss was killed the Post reported that Medrano probably wouldn’t be summonsed or charged by NYPD. Though Coss “had the pedestrian signal,” the Post reported, “No criminality and no traffic-law violations are suspected.”

“It was a tragic, unfortunate accident,” an anonymous NYPD source said.

NYPD denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to the crash.

Coss was survived by two brothers, who filed a suit against the city, NYPD, and Medrano, claiming Medrano was driving recklessly, using a cell phone, and failed to yield. But the city’s Law Department claims Coss was responsible for the collision.

The city’s response to the suit says Coss “knew or should have known in the exercise of due/reasonable care of the risks and dangers incident to engaging in the activity alleged.”

From the city’s court filing:

Plantiff(s) voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed. Plaintiff(s) failed to use all required, proper, appropriate and reasonable safety devices and/or equipment and failed to take all proper, appropriate and reasonable steps to assure his/her/their safety … Plaintiff(s)’ implied assumption of risk caused or contributed, in whole or in part [sic] to his/her/their injuries.

The Coss family’s attorney, Andrew Levine, says NYPD and the city have resisted providing materials relevant to the case, including witness statements, which the city has failed to surrender despite two court orders. “We believe those statements are going to be very powerful evidence about the conscious pain and suffering that Felix Coss went through,” Levine told Streetsblog. “It feels as though they really put up a stone wall to try and prevent any flow of information whatsoever.”

NYPD has a history of mistreating victims of police-involved traffic crashes. The department keeps a tight lid on information related to crashes that involve police personnel, going so far as to withhold data from other city agencies, a policy that has not changed since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2014.

Attorneys for the Coss family and the city are next scheduled to be in court in April.

“They have things in here — that he should have known, that he was engaging in a dangerous activity,” said Levine. “He’s a pedestrian walking across the street with the walk signal.”