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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.

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Driver Backing Up to Park Kills Lin Qinyun, NYPD Blames Victim [Updated]

NYPD issued no tickets and filed no charges against the driver who backed over and killed Lin Qinyun in Corona. Image: Google Maps

NYPD issued no tickets and filed no charges against the driver who backed over and killed Lin Qinyun in Corona. Image: Google Maps

Update below

A driver backing up to get a parking space killed a woman in Queens and NYPD blamed the deceased victim.

Lin Qinyun, 64, was crossing 37th Avenue at 113th Street in Corona at around 8:45 a.m. last Friday when she was struck by a 54-year-old woman driving a Ford SUV.

NYPD faulted Qinyun for the crash. From the Times-Ledger:

The driver was eastbound on 37th Avenue and came to stop in the vicinity of 113th Street, the spokesman said.

The driver then put her vehicle in reverse and traveled westbound in reverse, the spokesman added.

Qinyun was crossing 37th Avenue at the time from north to south outside of a crosswalk into the path of the vehicle, which struck her, causing her to fall and strike her head on the pavement, the official said.

37th Avenue at 113th Street is a two-way street with one travel lane and one parking lane in each direction. There is a marked crosswalk on 113th Street, but no crosswalk markings or curb ramps on 37th Avenue.

Regardless of street conditions, state law requires motorists to exercise due care to avoid hitting people with vehicles. There is a park and a school on one side of 37th Avenue at 113th Street, and apartments on the other. The crash happened a few yards from a school zone.

“The driver didn’t see her. The car went right over her,” witness Rosealba Maneses told the Post. “She has blood on her head — it happened so fast.”

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3 Sources of Cluelessness Conspire to Blame Victims for “Distracted Walking”

For a policing icon who built his reputation on being data-driven, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton has a penchant for shooting from the hip on traffic safety.

At the Vision Zero conference yesterday, Bratton cited distracted walking as a reason pedestrian deaths in the U.S. are rising.

U.S. pedestrian deaths were indeed up last year, perhaps by as much as 10 percent. But how does Bratton know that an uptick in distracted walking — texting, earbudding and the like — played a part in the nationwide rise? How about in New York City? Has Bratton heeded the entreaties of street safety advocates and instructed the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad to data-mine its traffic death forensics to ferret out primary causes like drivers’ aggressive turning, speeding, texting, and curb-jumping, vis-à-vis screen-absorbed pedestrians walking into buses?

Unlikely. A better guess is that Bratton’s source was an AP story that ran earlier this week. Here’s the lede (emphasis added):

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Bratton on NYC’s Vision Zero Goal: “It Will Probably Remain Elusive”

If New York City hopes to achieve Vision Zero, it probably won’t happen on Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s watch.

Bratton kicked off the Vision Zero Cities conference, happening today and tomorrow at NYU, with a big helping of complacency.

“You’re not going to get to zero,” Bratton said at a morning question and answer session with former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Though it’s a nice goal to aspire to, said Bratton, “the reality [is] it will probably remain elusive.”

Something else New York won’t be doing while Bratton heads NYPD is increasing the number of crash investigators. Abramson, who was hit by a truck driver in a 2007 crash that police did not investigate, noted that drivers caused 3,500 serious injuries last year, and that the Collision Investigation Squad worked only about 10 percent of those cases. She twice asked Bratton if he intended to beef up CIS.

“We have many priorities,” said Bratton, who cited terrorism, “traditional crime,” and a lack of available officers as obstacles to boosting CIS personnel. Instead, Bratton said, existing CIS staff is handling more crashes, not just those where victims die or are deemed “likely to die.”

Bratton said the Highway Division will get 100 additional officers, but they won’t be assigned to CIS.

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Racial Inequity in Traffic Enforcement

With the Vision Zero Cities Conference kicking off tomorrow, Transportation Alternatives has released an accompanying collection of essays, the first edition of “The International Journal of Traffic Safety Innovation.” Streetsblog is pleased to republish TA Legislative and Legal Manager Marco Conner’s contribution to the journal. The whole collection is worth your time, and you can download it from TA’s Vision Zero Cities site

vz_citiesThe message of the Black Lives Matter movement has permeated institutions across America, but in large part, transportation planners have opted out. It’s time for that to change.

As Vision Zero policies are adopted by cities and countries around the world, equity, or a lack thereof, is a major challenge to successful implementation.

Equity in Vision Zero is the fair and just implementation of transportation safety measures across all populations, including race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic condition. Where inequities exist in cities, there is also the greatest and most disproportionate rates of traffic deaths and injuries. In U.S. cities, 89 percent of high-income communities have sidewalks, while only 49 percentof low-income communities do. At the same time, black and Latino Americans, who live in low-income communities at higher rates than white Americans, are twice as likely to be killed while walking. These deaths are not accidents, but the result of inadequate and inequitable engineering and transportation policy. They represent the biases that Vision Zero has inherited, and which we must address.

There is an urgent need for transportation planners to apply a broad equity analysis to “the three E’s” — engineering, education and enforcement — coupled with policy implementations that are similarly guided. A mandated equity analysis will force engineers, police, and educators to consider, and make an effort to correct, historic wrongs of race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic conditions as they work toward Vision Zero.

Today, the most pressing challenge is enforcement as it relates to race in the United States. Here, institutional racism and individual bias against minority groups, particularly black and Latino people, is omnipresent, and traffic enforcement is no exception. A 2015 report in the New York Times found that black drivers across the country are up to five times as likely as white drivers to be stopped and searched while driving, even though police find illegal items less often in black drivers’ vehicles.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Dorothy Heimann, 90, in Whitestone

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges against a driver who hit a 90-year-old woman last month, causing fatal injuries.

The victim was struck in the 109th Precinct, which made news last year for initiating a crackdown on walking in response to a series of pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists.

Dorothy Heimann was crossing Clintonville Street at around 9:50 a.m. on February 7 when the driver hit her with a Jeep SUV while turning left from 17th Avenue, according to NYPD and accounts published by Gothamist and Ridgewood Times.

Clintonville Street at 17th Avenue, in Whitestone, is a signalized intersection of two-way residential streets. There is no exclusive turn signal, according to Google Maps photos, so if the driver had a green light, it’s likely Heimann would have been crossing with the right of way.

Heimann, who lived in Whitestone, suffered head trauma. She died on March 4.

The Right of Way Law gives police and prosecutors a tool to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, but NYPD and city DAs rarely use it. As is usually the case when law enforcers don’t file charges for a serious crash, NYPD withheld the name of the motorist.

Gothamist reported that the driver fled the scene, but the NYPD spokesperson I talked with said she saw no indication that the crash was a hit and run.

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Years After Death of Ariel Russo, NYPD Chases Still Injuring and Killing People

Last week Franklin Reyes was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of other people.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of bystanders and police.

Police pulled Reyes over on W. 89th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, on June 4, 2013, after he drove his family’s pick-up truck across several lanes to make a turn. As officers walked toward the truck, Reyes, who was 17 and did not have a drivers license, hit the gas.

Police chased Reyes for eight blocks until he crashed onto the sidewalk at Amsterdam and W. 97th Street, where Ariel and her grandmother, Katia Gutierrez, were walking to Ariel’s school. Reyes hit them both, killing Ariel and injuring Gutierrez.

NYPD vehicle pursuits that result in death typically lead to serious charges for the people being chased. According to court records, Reyes pled guilty to manslaughter, assault, and two counts of fleeing police — all felonies. Gothamist reports that he was sentenced Friday.

“Ariel died a violent death because of your reckless behavior and you have not apologized,” said Sofia Russo, Ariel’s mother, in court. “You have shown no remorse.”

Nor has NYPD stopped engaging in car chases. NYPD policy says “a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” As in the case of Ariel Russo, and Karen Schmeer, and Violetta Kryzak, and Mary Celine Graham, many times a pursuit doesn’t end until the suspect crashes. In the wake of Ariel’s death, NYPD chases are still injuring and killing people.

NYPD hides police crash data from the public, so we don’t know exactly how much injury, loss of life, and property damage is caused every year due in part to the department’s open-ended pursuit policy. Stories about police pursuits that lead to injuries still surface regularly in the press. In March 2015 an unlicensed driver attempting to evade police killed Dave Jones on a sidewalk in Crown Heights.

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Why Does the 90th Precinct Allow Illegal Parking in the Kent Ave Bike Lane?

This tweet thanking the 90th Precinct for permitting parking in the Kent Avenue bike lane was quickly deleted after Streetsblog called attention to it.

The two-way protected bike lane on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg is one of the best bikeways in the city, but every so often it’s occupied by a phalanx of illegally parked cars. It’s never been a huge secret that the cars belong to the neighborhood’s Satmar Hasidic community, which gets to appropriate the bike lane with the tacit approval of NYPD during big events. Neither has it been out in the open much. Last week, though, an account affiliated with the Satmars openly flaunted the arrangement on Twitter.

The account thanked the 90th Precinct for allowing angled parking on Kent Avenue between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Clymer Avenue for the wedding of the grand rabbi’s granddaughter. Streetsblog retweeted it, and whoever runs the account pulled the tweet after it started to draw more unwelcome attention.

It wasn’t the first time @HQSatmar has tweeted its gratitude to the 90th Precinct for allowing illegal parking on the strip:

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Family of Victoria Nicodemus: Get Reckless Drivers Off NYC Streets

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to share her department's efforts to curb traffic fatalities. Image: David Meyer

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to talk about DOT street redesigns. Photo: David Meyer

The family of Victoria Nicodemus is calling on NYPD to do more to get reckless drivers off city streets.

Nicodemus died last December when Marlon Sewell struck her with his SUV on a Fort Greene sidewalk, in a crash that injured two other pedestrians. Sewell, whose driving record reportedly includes incidents of unlicensed driving and speeding in school zones, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. This month a judge declined to revoke Sewell’s license, which was reinstated after he killed Nicodemus, because Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

Since the vigil and art installation held in her memory, Nicodemus’s siblings have joined other victims of traffic violence and their family members at Vision Zero events, to advocate for more serious charges against Sewell and changes in laws and policies that enable motorist negligence.

At a public event last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller spoke to representatives from DOT and NYPD. Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the area of Fort Greene where Nicodemus was killed, scheduled the forum in response to her death.

While Miller commended both departments for their ongoing Vision Zero efforts, he pressed NYPD to hold dangerous drivers accountable. “I’m wondering why there can’t be more done to immobilize a car, or impound a car, or create some sort of repercussions that have more of an impact that simply arresting a guy, saying ‘Ticket! We arrested him!,’ and letting him walk out the next day and get back in his car,” he asked Dennis Fulton, an NYPD crash investigator.

Fulton said the department is committed to filing additional charges against Sewell, but is limited by current laws. “I understand your sister, you know, she was on the sidewalk, she had no chance — and that’s pretty evident from the video,” Fulton said. “We’re going to act within the parameters that we’ve been dealt and we’ll do our best to bring criminal charges against the individual.”

“These are legislative proposals that we can pursue,” said Fulton, “but the police department acts within the parameters of those particular laws.”

Thompson’s office didn’t send anyone to last night’s event.

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Felony Hit-and-Run Charge for Driver Who Allegedly Killed Can Reng Ma

A suspect was arrested and charged in the hit-and-run killing of cyclist Can Reng Ma in Sheepshead Bay, and NYPD is making exculpatory statements on the alleged driver’s behalf.

Can Reng Ma

Can Reng Ma

Junior Hicks was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony, according to court records. WABC reported that Hicks, 31, is from Queens.

On Tuesday Ma, 54, was riding his bike on Avenue U, on the way home from his job at a nearby lumber supply company, when he was fatally struck by the driver of a rented box truck. Police arrested Hicks yesterday afternoon.

No charges were filed for the act of taking Can Reng Ma’s life.

WABC spoke with relatives and friends of the victim, who reportedly came to the U.S. from China seven years ago:

Around the warehouse, Can Reng was known for his work ethic, generosity, a humble soul who adored his wife, daughter, and teenage son.

“We do love him, we feel so sorry about him,” [co-worker Kimmie] Kwok said.

Police told the press the person who killed Ma may not have seen him — a ready-made defense, since under state law prosecutions for hit-and-run crashes hinge on whether it can be proven that the driver knew or had reason to know a collision occurred. The vast majority of New York City motorists involved in hit-and-run crashes resulting in injury and death are never charged with a crime.

After Hicks was taken into custody, an NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist a “preliminary investigation indicates that Hicks did not know he had struck someone.”

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, issued a statement today praising police for making an arrest, and called on NYPD to stop “making unauthorized statements to news outlets even though evidence [is] still being collected.”

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