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Posts from the NYPD Crash Investigations Category

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Witness Account of Park Slope Collision Contradicts NYPD Victim-Blaming

If, as NYPD says, the cyclist collided with vehicle head-on, why is the rear tired destroyed? Photo: Toby Cecchini

A witness believes the cyclist who was severely injured in Park Slope Wednesday night was struck from the side, not head-on, as NYPD claims. Photo: Toby Cecchini

A witness believes the driver who severely injured a 20-year-old cyclist Wednesday night in Park Slope T-boned the victim as he rode across Sixth Avenue in the Ninth Street bike lane with the right of way — contrary to NYPD’s claim that the victim was hit head-on while biking against traffic on Sixth Avenue.

The crash happened at around 9 p.m. NYPD said the 25-year-old motorist was southbound on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets when the cyclist, traveling northbound on Sixth, “suddenly reared into the southbound lane, causing a collision.”

But Toby Cecchini, who had just crossed Sixth Avenue on the north side of Ninth Street when he heard the crash behind him, thinks this account is inaccurate.

I did not see the cyclist, but my impression was that the driver’s version is incorrect. From the sound behind and to my left, and the debris field, I believe the cyclist was crossing Sixth in the same direction I was, heading [westbound] in the bike lane just to my left. His bike was struck directly from the side, very obviously from my photos, and so this corroborates that. Had the cyclist been riding as the driver maintains, his bike would have been crushed head-on, in a completely different manner. Also, the cyclist would have gone face-first into the windshield and had his face mutilated. Clearly, he went sideways or even backwards into the windshield, from the way his scalp had been taken off from the rear, and from how he ended up with his feet pointing upwards initially, sticking out through the windshield. Also his face was intact, which makes the driver’s assertion impossible.

At the time of the collision, Cecchini had just reached the curb and was walking with the signal, meaning the cyclist would have had the green light as well. After the crash, Cecchini said, the driver was “shouting loudly that the cyclist swerved into him from nowhere and repeating it loudly over and over.”

The preliminary report from the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad reflected the driver’s version of the story, which Cecchini said he overheard at the scene, and was disseminated by the department’s public information office. NYPD told Gothamist the motorist was waiting at a red light on Sixth at Ninth just before the collision.

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NYPD: Critically-Injured Cyclist Caused High-Speed Park Slope Collision

NYPD blamed this collision on the cyclist, despite a witness account that the driver was speeding. Photo: Toby Cecchini

NYPD blamed this collision on the cyclist, despite a witness account that the driver was speeding. Photo: Toby Cecchini

A 20-year-old man is in critical condition after he was hit by a driver while riding a bike in Park Slope last night. Though a witness said the driver was speeding, police blamed the victim for the crash.

NYPD said the 25-year-old motorist was traveling southbound on Sixth Avenue near Ninth Street in a Honda sedan when the northbound cyclist “suddenly reared into the southbound lane, causing a collision.”

Police accounts cited by Gothamist said the cyclist was riding against traffic in the southbound lane. NYPD told Gothamist the motorist had been waiting at the red light at Sixth and Ninth just before the collision occurred.

The victim went head-first through the windshield into the vehicle’s passenger compartment, according to NYPD. Photos of the scene show the windshield was destroyed, a sign of high-speed collision.

Toby Cecchini, who witnessed the crash and tended to the victim before police arrived, told Gothamist the driver came “flying past” before he heard what sounded like an “explosion.”

Cecchini said the victim “was canted into the front passenger seat, his legs sticking out through the windshield.” According to Cecchini, the driver was “shouting loudly that the cyclist swerved into him from nowhere and repeating it loudly over and over to different group[s] of people.”

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Judge Bars Woman Who Killed Cyclist From Driving in NY, No Thanks to NYPD

When Caitlin Venedam struck and killed Matthew Brenner on Sands Street on July 6, 2014, NYPD blamed Brenner and let Venedam off without so much as a ticket. Now, thanks to evidence that police failed to collect, an administrative law judge with the Department of Motor Vehicles has barred Venedam from driving in New York state, according to DNAinfo.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman

Venedam, 25 at the time, struck Brenner, 29, as she turned from eastbound Sands onto the ramp for the northbound BQE at 9:35 p.m. Police said Brenner was biking against traffic trying to cross the ramp when Venedam struck him, an explanation that his friends and family found unlikely.

Video evidence later contradicted NYPD’s account, showing Brenner was not on the roadway, DNA reports, fitting a recurring pattern of police erroneously blaming the victims of fatal crashes.

As recently as last November, DMV had informed Brenner’s family that it would not hold a hearing to review Venedam’s driving privileges. DMV is supposed to hold hearings for every fatal crash but doesn’t adhere to the policy in practice.

Thanks to a civil suit filed by the family, information surfaced that NYPD never collected in its crash investigation. In her deposition, Venedam said she had gotten off the highway to call a friend and check her location on Google Maps, which remained open in her passenger seat as she merged back onto the highway.

The lawyer for Brenner’s estate, Daniel Flanzig, told DNA that this information was critical to Judge Regina Rinaldi’s decision and blasted NYPD for its “completely insufficient” investigation.

Venedam, an actress who appeared in the TV series “Gossip Girl,” is still allowed to drive elsewhere, including New Jersey, where she is licensed. She was cited four times between 2006 and 2012 for unsafe driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and blocking traffic, according to NJ Motor Vehicle Commission records obtained by DNA.

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NYPD Still Keeps Crash Reports Under Lock and Key

Two years into the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero initiative, NYPD still refuses to release crash investigations to the public.

NYPD refuses to disclose basic information pertaining to the crash that killed Brooklyn cyclist James Gregg, such as where the trucker who hit Gregg was going, and what was in his trailer. Photo: Eric McClure

The most recent case: NYPD denied a freedom of information request from a New York Times reporter who asked for documents related to the crash that killed cyclist James Gregg in Park Slope last month.

Gregg was killed on April 20 by a tractor-trailer driver on Sixth Avenue near Sterling Place. That’s not a truck route, and based on photos of the scene, there is a strong possibility the truck that hit Gregg was too long to be operated legally on NYC surface streets. But an officer at the scene suggested Gregg had acted recklessly by trying to hitch a ride, which also describes what a cyclist desperately trying to fend off an oversized truck might look like. NYPD later said Gregg “for unknown reasons fell to the ground,” and eventually ticketed the trucker for equipment violations driving off-route, but he was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for taking Gregg’s life.

Not satisfied with the shifting narrative from police, the Times’s Andy Newman filed a FOIL request on April 24, reports street safety advocate Charles Komanoff, who posted the NYPD letter denying the request on the Right of Way web site.

Newman asked NYPD for Collision Investigation Squad reports, any police determination concerning what caused the crash, the driver’s name and address, information on any summonses issued and charges filed against the driver, information on the driver’s route and cargo, the length of the truck trailer, and whether police determined that the truck driver broke laws relating to truck routes and passing at a safe distance.

On May 11, Lieutenant Richard Mantellino rejected Newman’s request on the grounds that granting it “would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings.”

NYPD’s handling of the crash — reflexive victim-blaming followed by conflicting police statements and a refusal to release information that would shed light on what happened and how the investigation was conducted — adhered to a script that has not changed in years, with or without a Vision Zero policy framework in place at City Hall.

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Red Light Runner Who Killed Cyclist in Midwood Charged With Drugged Driving

Avenue P and E 12th Street, facing west.

Avenue P and E 12th Street, facing west. Image via Google Street View

The driver who ran a red light and killed a cyclist in Midwood last night has been charged for driving while impaired by drugs. It’s not clear yet whether NYPD and DA Ken Thompson will file additional charges.

At around 10 p.m., Eduard Nikhman, 26, drove his Honda Accord through a steady red light heading westbound on Avenue P, T-boning a southbound vehicle on E 12th Street and propelling it into the path of a man cycling northbound in the western crosswalk, inflicting fatal injuries. The victim’s name has yet to be released pending notification of his family. Gothamist has posted security camera footage of the collision.

NYPD charged Nikhman with driving while impaired by drugs, according to the department’s public information office (DCPI). NYPD did not reveal the substance in Nikhman’s system. When I asked whether the investigation might yield additional charges against Nikhman, DCPI referred me to Thompson’s office. The DA’s press office said Nikhman was arrested last night and has yet to be arraigned.

Avenue P is a wide, two-way street where drivers are “constantly speeding,” a local resident told CBS2.

The victim is the fourth cyclist known to have been killed by a motorist reportedly violating traffic laws in New York City in recent weeks.

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78th Precinct: Don’t Blame Us For Deadly Trucks on Neighborhood Streets

Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct has developed a well-earned reputation for taking street safety seriously, but it wasn’t on display at last night’s precinct community council meeting, where local residents grilled police on the death of cyclist James Gregg last Wednesday and the lack of truck route enforcement in Park Slope.

78th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo.

78th Precinct commanding officer Frank DiGiacomo.

Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo, the precinct’s commanding officer, and Wayne Bailey, who serves in the volunteer position of precinct community council president, spent the meeting deflecting responsibility from the precinct and pointing fingers elsewhere.

A week ago, a big-rig driver struck and killed the 33-year-old Gregg on Sixth Avenue near Sterling Place, which is not a truck route. At the crash scene, officers blamed Gregg, telling passersby that he had been hanging onto the side of the truck’s trailer.

An initial NYPD statement on the crash said “no criminality” was suspected on the part of the truck driver, and that Gregg had “collided into [the] rear tire of the tractor trailer.” A second police statement said the truck driver overtook Gregg and “something like a wind force… sucked the bicycle toward the back of the truck.” The day after Gregg’s death, the department said that “for unknown reasons [Gregg] fell to the ground and was struck by the rear passenger tires of the tractor-trailer,” issuing five summonses to the driver for going off-route and various equipment violations.

It’s not unusual for police officers to jump to conclusions and erroneously blame victims for their own deaths. Gregg’s death occurred less than a week after police claimed Lauren Davis was biking against traffic on Classon Avenue when she was struck and killed by a turning driver. A witness who saw Davis traveling in the direction of traffic has since upended NYPD’s initial account.

Attendees at last night’s community council meeting chastised DiGiacomo for the false information that came out in the immediate aftermath of the crash that killed Gregg. When questioned about what the precinct could do to hold dangerous drivers accountable, DiGiacomo argued that the responsibility for investigating violent crashes lies with Highway Patrol. “It’s a highway investigation. Somebody died, they’re the professionals. It’s up to them,” he said.

Crash investigations are conducted by the Crash Investigation Squad, which, as DiGiacomo said, is part of the Highway Patrol. But precinct officers also respond to crash scenes, and it was an officer with the 78th Precinct who was telling passersby that Gregg had been hitching a ride on the side of the trailer. DiGiacomo asked for the officer’s name but gave no indication he would take steps to prevent victim-blaming conjecture at crash sites in the future.

The 78th Precinct only issued five truck route citations last year, and at the time Gregg was struck and killed, it had issued none in 2016. Then, following the crash, officers were seen ticketing off-route truck drivers.

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NYPD Admits It Wrongly Accused Lauren Davis of Biking Against Traffic

NYPD has amended the crash report that wrongly accused Lauren Davis of biking against traffic when she was struck and killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue the morning of April 15.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

Yesterday, Streetsblog published an account from witness Rebecca Ballantine, who was biking on Classon at the same time as Davis and said she was “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.” At the time we ran the story, NYPD’s public information office still said Davis was biking the wrong way when she was struck.

Now NYPD has updated its crash report, according to Nathan Tempey at Gothamist:

A department representative said this morning that investigators have amended their report to indicate that Davis was riding with traffic, and that they are in conversation with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about possible charges.

While it’s good that police have corrected their mistake and are moving forward with the investigation, much of the damage has already been done. False information permeated the news cycle following the crash, feeding the perception that cyclists are culpable when they’re struck and killed by motorists.

Now the question is: What will NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Highway Patrol chief Michael Ameri, who’s in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad, do to prevent this from happening again?

NYPD’s premature judgment in this case is part of a broader pattern of police bias in crash investigations, which often leads to press accounts that erroneously blame victims.

One reform was suggested by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — himself a former police officer — at a memorial ride held for Davis and James Gregg, who was killed last week while biking in Park Slope.

Adams called on police to refrain from publicly discussing details of crashes while investigations are underway, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. “We should not assume that the cyclist was always the person responsible for a crash or had accepted the risk simply by climbing on a bicycle,” he said.

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Witness: Lauren Davis Was Biking With Traffic, Not Against, as NYPD Claimed

A witness who was biking behind Lauren Davis at the time she was struck and killed by a turning driver on the morning of April 15 says she is “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.”

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

The eyewitness account directly contradicts the version of events police have propagated since the immediate aftermath of the crash, when NYPD told several news outlets, including Streetsblog, that Davis was biking against traffic.

The discrepancy fits a pattern of police bias, in which NYPD supplies reporters with information exonerating drivers who kill pedestrians or cyclists immediately after a crash, forming the basis of most media coverage. With alarming regularity, those initial NYPD reports and press accounts are proven erroneous when witness testimony or video evidence implicating the driver surfaces later on.

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed Lauren Davis.

Rebecca Ballantine was biking north on Classon Avenue at around 8:30 a.m. that Friday after seeing her son onto a school bus. She first noticed Davis stopped at a red light facing north on Classon at the intersection of Gates Avenue, wearing a helmet. Ballantine proceeded when there was a gap in traffic, before the light turned green, she said, while Davis stayed behind.

Soon after, Davis overtook Ballantine heading north, in the direction of traffic. Davis worked at Pratt, and Classon would have taken her to the campus.

At the time the driver, a 41-year-old woman, struck Davis at Lexington Avenue, two blocks north of Gates, Ballantine says she was behind Davis but less than a block away.

Ballantine said her impression of the lead-up to the collision is not completely clear, but she saw the moment of impact. “I thought [Davis] was going [straight] on Classon as the driver made the turn,” she said, describing a “left-hook” scenario in which the driver failed to yield. (NYPD told reporters that the driver turned left from Classon onto Lexington.)

One thing Ballantine is certain of is that Davis, contrary to NYPD’s account, was not riding the wrong way. “I am absolutely sure she was not biking against traffic,” she said. “I was very aware of her.”

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NYPD Clears Hit-and-Run Driver and Blames Deceased Victim in the Press

NYPD says a man struck by a hit-and-run driver in East Harlem killed himself by lying in the street. While psychologizing the deceased victim to the press, police defended the driver, and filed no charges against him for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

Christopher Costa was hit on Madison Avenue at E. 115th Street between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Tuesday. Yesterday the Daily News reported that after Costa was struck, “several motorists drove around his body without even stopping.”

Christopher Costa was killed in East Harlem by a hit-and-run driver who was not charged. Photo via Daily News

Christopher Costa was killed in East Harlem by a hit-and-run driver who was not charged. Photo via Daily News

“He was face up, but his skull was open,” witness Vivian Rolon told the News. “The cars didn’t stop. They just kept driving around him.”

Costa was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Today the News and the Post reported that, according to anonymous police sources, Costa laid down in the street before he was run over. According to the News, in one video of the crash Costa “suddenly [shows] up lying motionless in the roadway behind a speeding car.” That video was posted by DNAinfo and is embedded above.

The News reported that a second video, which NYPD has not released to the press, “shows Costa walking into the street and lying down in a prone position before he was struck.” It’s unclear why NYPD released one video but not the one that depicts the police account of the crash.

The Post said Costa “committed suicide.” Two unnamed people, cited as “a police source and a witness,” told the News “Costa had a serious drug problem and had been drinking.” Police also noted that Costa was “wearing all black.”

While speculating to the media on the motives and actions of a victim who can’t speak for himself, with a helping of juicy gossip concerning his personal life, unnamed police sources absolved the driver, whose identity was shielded.

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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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