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Rodriguez Bill Would Use Taxi TV to Help NYPD Close Hit-and-Run Cases

A bill introduced today by City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez [PDF] would require all street hail taxis to display notifications from NYPD about wanted hit-and-run drivers using in-vehicle screens like Taxi TV. If utilized by NYPD, the hope is the technology will help improve the department’s low closure rate for hit-and-run cases.

Taxi TV could help police track down hit-and-run drivers. Photo: nlaspf/Flickr

Taxi TV could help police track down hit-and-run drivers. Photo: nlaspf/Flickr

“Too often hit-and-run drivers escape the scene and avoid punishment for their crimes. I hope that this bill will be effective in holding hit-and-run drivers accountable,” Rodriguez said. “I want to bolster the NYPD’s efforts in locating these drivers so that no one escapes responsibility for their heinous actions.”

The bill, first reported by Capital New York, comes at a time when efforts in other states to broadcast hit-and-run information using AMBER Alert-like systems are gaining steam. The system in Colorado, named the Medina Alert in memory of a hit-and-run victim, sends television, radio, text message, and billboard announcements when police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who has caused death or serious injury. Announcements are sent to police cruisers, taxi drivers, media, truck drivers, and pedicab operators. After an initial implementation in Denver and Aurora, the state passed a law expanding the Medina Alert system statewide earlier this year.

In Oregon, a woman whose son was killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver is hoping that state’s lawmakers will follow suit. California appears poised to pass legislation for a hit-and-run alert system; a bill there has cleared both the Assembly and a Senate committee.

These types of systems are not yet available here. New York State Police told Streetsblog that troopers issue statements to the force’s website, send out social media alerts, and call media outlets directly when requesting the public’s assistance in searching for hit-and-run drivers. NYPD has not replied to a request for comment about its hit-and-run notification protocol.

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Bronx Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Abigail Lino Gets Six Months in Jail

A hit-and-run driver who killed a woman in the Bronx in 2013 will serve six months in jail.

Harlem resident Abigail Lino, 24, was crossing Bruckner Avenue near a Longwood club at around 3 a.m. last August 31 when Leroy Forest hit her with “a speeding silver SUV,” according to the Daily News:

Abigail Lino. Photo via DNAinfo

Witnesses said Lino’s body was thrown in the air by the callous driver before she came to rest in the center of the street. The driver sped off into the early morning darkness, police said.

“It’s hard to think about … we had just been inside having a good time. It’s really hard to believe,” said Ayalla Ingram, 24, who was walking with Lino moments before the accident.

“The car didn’t even slow down,” Taylor added. “It actually looked like it sped up (after it hit her).”

Lino worked for UPS and was a caregiver for her then-20-year-old sister, who has Down syndrome. She was also raising the young child of an ex, reports said.

Forest, of the Bronx, was arrested the day after the crash. According to court records, Forest pled guilty in May to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in jail, and which also allows for no jail time, or probation.

Leaving the scene was the top charge against Forest. Last week he was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation. It is not known how the sentence will affect his driving privileges.

New York State law gives some drivers an incentive to leave the scene of a serious crash. The penalty for hit-and-run is less severe than the penalty for drunk driving, and cases hinge on the courts’ ability to divine driver intent, which makes “I didn’t see her” a viable defense. Reforming the laws is one of the goals of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, but Albany lawmakers have for years failed to pass legislation that would toughen hit-and-run penalties.

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Council Bill Would Fine Drivers for Leaving the Scene of a Crash

Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez have introduced a bill that would impose civil penalties for hit-and-run crashes.

Intro 371 would attach escalating fines, based on injury severity, for violating Section 600 of the state traffic code, which deals with leaving the scene. Fines would begin at “not more than” $250 for drivers who leave the scene of a crash, $500 to $1,000 for a crash resulting in physical injury, $1,000 to $5,000 for a serious injury crash, and $2,000 to $5,000 for a fatal crash.

The bill refers to Article 10 of the state penal law for definitions of injury — “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain” — and serious injury — “injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”

Unlike Intro 238, a bill passed by the council last week that applies a strict liability standard to cases where motorists strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way, Intro 371 would apply only when a driver ”knows or has cause to know that physical injury has occurred.” This burden of proof gives rise to the “I didn’t see her” defense, often employed by hit-and-run drivers who avoid prosecution, even in cases where the victim dies.

Current state law gives drivers who have been drinking an incentive to flee the scene, as the criminal penalty for hit-and-run can be less severe than for causing injury while driving drunk. Albany has repeatedly failed to pass legislation that would toughen criminal penalties for leaving the scene.

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Unlicensed Driver Who Killed Brooklyn Senior Convicted of Leaving Scene

A jury has convicted a motorist who, while driving without a license, fatally struck a Brooklyn senior and left the scene.

Isabel Rodriguez. Photo via Daily News

Wayne Stokeling was convicted of leaving the scene of the crash that killed Isabel Rodriguez (pictured). Photo via Daily News

Isabel Rodriguez, 88, was walking with her 79-year-old sister on July 22, 2012, when Wayne Stokeling drove into her at Stone and Livonia Avenues in Brownsville, according to reports. Police tracked down his damaged BMW sedan a few blocks away.

Stokeling, then 50, “had an open warrant on a prior motor vehicle-related charge and four prior arrests,” the Daily News reported.

Stokeling claimed he was eating ice cream while driving and didn’t notice he’d run someone over. Unlike in many cases, however, the “I didn’t see her” defense didn’t work. Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes brought several charges against Stokeling, but he was not charged with homicide for killing Isabel Rodriguez. According to court records, on May 23 Stokeling was found guilty at trial of leaving the scene and driving with a suspended license.

It’s unclear what penalties will come with this conviction. Court records say the top charge against Stokeling — for which he was found guilty — was a violation of VTL § 600.2(a), for leaving the scene of a crash involving injury. This is the same charge that resulted in a 16 day jail sentence for the hit-and-run driver who killed pedestrian Florence Cioffi in Manhattan in 2008.

Stokeling’s next court appearance is scheduled for July.

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Brooklyn DA Secures Rare Manslaughter Conviction for Pedestrian Death

In a rare case of an apparently sober motorist facing serious penalties for a fatal crash, an unlicensed hit-and-run driver who killed one Brooklyn pedestrian and seriously injured another pled guilty to manslaughter this week.

Adam Recio pled guilty to manslaughter for the death of Raul De La Cruz (pictured). Possible sentences range from probation to 15 years in prison.

Raul De La Cruz and an unidentified woman were crossing Borinquen Place near Keap Street in Williamsburg at around 5 a.m. on November 15, 2012, when Adam Recio hit them with a Chevrolet Malibu, according to published reports. The victims were thrown into another lane of traffic and were hit by a second driver.

From the Daily News:

They had gotten halfway [across Borinquen Place] and were waiting in the striped area between the yellow lines in the center when the eastbound Chevy, which was trying to pass another vehicle, slammed into them, police said.

“In 30 years of driving I’ve never seen anything like this,” said truck driver Miguel Bocourt, 57. “The guy was going so fast. He was like a bat out of hell.”

De La Cruz “went flying up in the air,” said Bocourt.

De La Cruz, a beloved local figure and 35-year-old father of two young girls, died at the scene. The second victim, then 24, was hospitalized with serious injuries.

With a mangled hood and half the windshield gone, the Malibu was found abandoned five blocks away. Police later arrested Recio, then 27. The driver of the second vehicle was not charged.

Recio was charged by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes with manslaughter, homicide, assault, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene, reckless driving, and driving without a license. According to court records, on Monday Recio pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony with possible sentences ranging from probation to 15 years in prison.

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Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer on Trial in Brooklyn

A motorist who authorities say had a history of driving offenses and was driving without a license when he fatally struck a Brooklyn senior and fled the scene two years ago is on trial this week.

Isabel Rodriguez. Photo via Daily News

Wayne Stokeling is on trial this week for the hit-and-run killing of Isabel Rodriguez (pictured). New York State has a history of handing down light sentences to drivers who leave people to die in the street. Photo via Daily News

Isabel Rodriguez, 88, was walking with her 79-year-old sister on July 22, 2012, when Wayne Stokeling drove into her at Stone and Livonia Avenues in Brownsville, according to reports.

From the Daily News:

Cops spotted Stokeling’s BMW sedan a few blocks away from the crash with dents and a cracked windshield. He claimed the dents were caused by potholes, but was arrested for leaving the scene of a fatal accident and driving without a license.

He had an open warrant on a prior motor vehicle-related charge and four prior arrests, officials said.

“We were crossing the street,” Laura Chico, the victim’s sister, told the News. “I was calling, ‘Be careful, be careful.’ A car came fast and hit her when it turned. I went to her. I said, ‘Are you alive?’ I saw she was bleeding. I started crying.”

Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, was already planning her 90th birthday party, which would have taken place this year, relatives said.

Stokeling, then 50, told police he was eating ice cream while driving and didn’t notice he’d hit anyone.

Court records say the top charge against Stokeling, filed by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, was leaving the scene. Despite the circumstances of the case, Stokeling was not charged with homicide for killing Isabel Rodriguez.

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Hit-and-Run Drivers Killed Two People in NYC This Weekend

Drivers have killed at least five pedestrians and cyclists on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Image: Google Maps

Drivers have killed at least five pedestrians and cyclists on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Image: Google Maps

Hit-and-run drivers killed a pedestrian and a cyclist in Brooklyn and Queens this weekend.

Sunday night at around 9:30, a 40-year-old man riding a bike on Rockaway Boulevard near 90th Street was struck by the driver of a Mercedes van, according to reports. NYPD told the media the driver sideswiped the cyclist from behind and ran him over. The driver then stopped, exited the van to look at the victim, got back in and drove away, police said. As of this morning, NYPD had not released the victim’s name and the driver remained at large.

The cyclist was at least the fourth person killed by a driver while biking or walking in the 102nd Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a motorist on Rockaway Boulevard since January 2013. Yesterday’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich.

On Saturday morning, the driver of a Nissan Altima hit Felipe Castro Palacios, 27, on Third Avenue near Seventh Street in Gowanus, outside the auto repair shop where he worked, according to reports. From the Daily News:

Palacios was repairing a Ford Expedition parked halfway on the sidewalk in front of Samba Transmission & Auto Repair on Third Ave. near Seventh St. in Gowanus when a black Nissan Altima slammed into him and two parked cars at about 7:30 a.m., cops said.

The mechanic was hurtled head-first into the back of a parked Dodge Venture minivan, blowing the back window out, witnesses said.

Police identified the car as a rental but had not located the driver as of Sunday. The crash that killed Felipe Castro Palacios occurred in the 78th Precinct, and in the council district represented by Brad Lander.

This weekend’s victims were at least the fourth and fifth hit-and-run fatalities of the year. Starting in July 2015, NYPD will be required to report to the City Council on hit-and-run crashes and investigations. Of 60 fatal hit-and-runs investigated in 2012, NYPD arrested just 15 drivers, according to Transportation Alternatives.

A bill to toughen penalties against drivers who flee the scene of serious crashes cleared the State Senate in 2012, but did not pass the Assembly.

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Driver Fatally Strikes Bushwick Cyclist, Hits Cars, Leaves Scene [Updated]

Broadway at Halsey Street in Bushwick. Image: Google Maps

Broadway at Halsey Street in Bushwick. Image: Google Maps

Update: The cyclist has been identified by WNBC as Angel Torres. The driver remained at large Thursday morning.

A driver killed a cyclist in Brooklyn this morning and injured another motorist before fleeing the scene on foot.

The crash occurred at around 8 a.m., when a man driving a BMW sedan hit a man on a bike at the intersection of Broadway and Halsey Street in Bushwick, according to the Post.

“It happened so fast. We saw the man on top of the car and we were like wow,” said a witness, Shante Washington, 24, who works at Dunkin Donuts nearby.

“I was going to throw up. I’ve never seen anything like that, it’s not something that happens every day,” she explained.

“I went outside I seen the guy laying in front of Rite Aid his head was all messed up and they [emergency responders] already started working on him,” she said.

After striking the cyclist, the driver hit a parked car, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and crashed into an SUV, injuring the driver of the second vehicle, the Post and WNBC reported. “He got out of the car walked away, went across the street, then went back to the car grabbed two bags and left,” witness Ray McCall told the Post.

The cyclist, 46, died at Woodhull Hospital. NYPD had not released his name as of this writing, and no arrests had been made.

This fatal crash occurred on the border of the 73rd and 83rd Precincts, and in the City Council district represented by Rafael Espinal.

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Who Killed Kumar Ragunath? Police Seek Suspect as Advocates Call for Action

Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer join neighborhood and street safety advocates to call for the arrest of the hit-and-run driver who killed Kumar Ragunath. Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

Kumar Ragunath, 64, came to New York from Guyana in 1987. Five years later, he and his wife bought a house in Jamaica near Richmond Hill. He loved to play cricket and listen to Indian music, and he kept working through his retirement to help fund college for his six grandchildren. Ragunath had been out of work since August, but recently found a job at the Queens Plaza Holiday Inn.

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

On March 7 at about 10:25 p.m., he was on his way to his second day of work at the hotel when he crossed Northern Boulevard near 40th Road in Long Island City. Ragunath was outside the crosswalk when the driver of a dark-colored Chevy Blazer in the westbound right-hand lane hit him. The driver kept going. Ragunath was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was put into a medically-induced coma and died the next day.

Now, police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver who killed Ragunath. Local elected officials, neighborhood advocates and street safety activists gathered today at the crash site to call for Ragunath’s killer to be brought to justice and for safer streets, especially in the growing Long Island City neighborhood and along Northern Boulevard.

Northern Boulevard has a long record of fatalities and injuries: Last year, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian and 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa were both killed by drivers on the street. Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked it as the second most deadly street in Queens for pedestrians. Last month, after a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver seriously injured five people at a Northern Boulevard bus shelter, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make the street a priority in its Vision Zero initiative. As at last month’s event, Van Bramer was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris today.

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DA Dan Donovan: Six Months for SI Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed 5 Year Old

A Staten Island motorist who fled the scene after hitting a mother and two young children, fatally injuring the woman’s 5-year-old son, will serve six months in jail under a plea deal from District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

Kyrillos Gendy was killed by hit-and-run driver John Sanjurjo. Sanjurjo was not charged by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan for killing Kyrillos or injuring his mother and sister, and will serve just six months in jail.

John Sanjurjo ran over Kyrillos Gendy, his 7-year-old sister Gabriella, and 35-year-old Erieny Thomas at around 8:25 p.m. on August 9, 2013, as they crossed Richmond Road. Kyrillos had “severe internal bleeding and no pulse” when he arrived at Staten Island University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Times. Gabriella suffered a broken ankle, and Ms. Thomas “had a gash on her face.”

Mr. [Adam] Gendy [Kyrillos's cousin] said the family had not yet told Gabriella what had happened. “That’s a conversation we’re trying to figure out,” he said. “The mom is just an emotional wreck right now. She barely speaks.”

Adam Gendy told the Times he last saw Kyrillos an hour before the crash. “He hugged me, gave me a kiss. He’s very innocent, very full of energy, very loving. Loved Marvel superheroes. Could name you all the superheroes.”

Sanjurjo, accompanied by an attorney, waited until the next day to turn himself in to police. ”Sanjurjo’s 2013 Mercedes-Benz 350 matched the vehicle description, including dents in the hood from the impact,” the Daily News reported. “The force of the impact sent Kyrillos flying through the air. Bits of scattered food that Kyrillos’ family was carrying were found on the car.”

On the day of Kyrillos’s funeral, Sanjurjo, 33, was arraigned and freed on $35,000 bail. He was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury. ”You got the wrong guy, man,” Sanjurjo told reporters outside the courthouse.

A handful of times in recent memory, New York City district attorneys have brought homicide charges against sober drivers in fatal crashes. But Donovan did not charge Sanjurjo with assault or homicide for injuring Kyrillos’s mom and sister and leaving the boy to die in the street.

New York State law gives drivers an incentive to leave the scene of a serious crash. For one thing, the penalty for hit-and-run is less severe than the penalty for drunk driving. And under current law the decision to issue charges for leaving the scene rests on the ability to divine driver intent, lending credibility to the “I didn’t see him” defense. Cleaning up hit-and-run laws is one of the goals in the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero plan.

On February 28, Sanjurjo pled guilty to the top leaving the scene charge, a class D felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail, according to court records and the Staten Island Advance.

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