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Driver Pleads to Manslaughter for Killing 12-Year-Old on Brooklyn Sidewalk

A man who drove a stolen minivan into a woman and her two children on a Brooklyn sidewalk, killing a 12-year-old girl and leaving the other victims with life-altering injuries, has pled guilty to manslaughter.

Joie Sellers

Joie Sellers

Robert DeCarlo hit Joie Sellers, her 9-year-old sister Charlie, and their mother Marcia Landais, 38, as the victims walked on Flatlands Avenue near E. 46th Street on July 2, 2014.

The Daily News reported that DeCarlo knocked down a fence and hit a fire hydrant before coming to a stop. “He was going 120 miles an hour,” one witness told the News. “He lost control. It was crazy.”

“One of the babies was under the car,” the witness said. “We pushed the car up. I take the baby out.”

Joie died at Kings County Hospital. The Post reported that Charlie was rendered blind and paralyzed by the crash, and that Landais sustained a fractured pelvis.

DeCarlo, who reportedly had a criminal background, ran from the scene on foot, and later turned himself in to police. District Attorney Ken Thompson filed over a dozen charges against him, including manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene, driving without a license, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and speeding.

Last Friday, DeCarlo pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony, and four counts of assault, a class D felony, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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Another Person Killed by Turning Motorist in the 109th Precinct

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

An ambulette driver was charged under the Right of Way Law for striking and killing a pedestrian in Flushing.

The crash happened Tuesday at around 8:57 a.m. The victim — a 57-year-old man whose name has not been released by police, pending family notification — was crossing 35th Avenue in the crosswalk when Ramon Ortiz, 55, struck him with an SUV while turning left onto the avenue from Prince Street, according to NYPD and reports from the Daily News and QNS.com.

The victim died at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Ortiz was arrested and charged with violating the victim’s right of way, a police spokesperson told Streetsblog.

The victim was at least the third pedestrian killed by a motorist in the 109th Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. In at least one other case the victim was struck by a driver making a turn. The precinct is where a driver who failed to yield killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013.

Officers in the 109th Precinct ticketed 867 drivers for failing to yield and 738 drivers for speeding in 2015, according to NYPD summons data. In response to a series of pedestrian fatalities last year, the precinct and local electeds made a show of blaming people for their own deaths.

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

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Associated Press Cautions Journalists That Crashes Aren’t Always “Accidents”

The Associated Press has tweaked its guidance for journalists about when to call traffic collisions “accidents.”

Street safety advocates, spearheaded by New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, have been pushing police and media organizations to drop the term “accident” because it implies the absence of culpability — often before all the facts are in — and makes traffic collisions seem like random, unpreventable acts of God.

The AP style guide, a highly influential reference book for reporters, currently doesn’t take a stance on whether “accident” is appropriate. A web addendum to the guide does recommend against “accident” because it’s not a neutral term, but the guide itself refers to collisions as “accidents” multiple times.

The new style guide will be released June 1 and cautions against calling a crash an “accident” in cases “when negligence is claimed or proven.” The AP tweeted today that “crash, collision or other terms” should be used instead.

The strange thing about the revised guidance is that “accident” is still the default term, instead of a term reserved for cases in which the absence of fault has been ascertained.

Under the AP’s guidance, journalists reporting breaking news about collisions would continue to use the loaded term “accident” before an investigation has determined whether negligence or recklessness was a factor.

But hey, the AP isn’t known for rapid adaptation. It’s just getting around to blessing a lowercase “I” when spelling the word “internet.”

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Driver Who Killed Charity Hicks Pleads to Homicide and Leaving the Scene

The hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a Detroit woman as she waited for a bus in Hell’s Kitchen pled guilty to homicide and felony leaving the scene. He will serve a minimum of two and a maximum of six years in prison, pursuant to a judge’s plea offer.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street on May 31, 2014, hitting a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to court documents. Shanley fled the scene on foot and was arrested in New Jersey three months later.

Shanley is the son of a deceased NYPD officer. He was on parole at the time of the crash, according to the Daily News.

A Detroit human rights activist who was in the city for a conference, Hicks suffered severe head trauma and serious injuries to her chest. She died after weeks in the hospital. The crash also injured a second pedestrian.

The criminal court complaint said video showed Shanley “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk.” Shanley’s cell phone, recovered at the scene, indicated the user was sending a text when the collision occurred, according to the complaint.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death — class C and D felonies, respectively. Vance later dropped the manslaughter charge and added a homicide charge, a less severe class E felony.

As Streetsblog reported in a prior story on this case, in New York City it is unusual for a hit-and-run driver who kills someone to be charged for taking a life. It’s possible that the evidence — crash video and phone records — coupled with Shanley’s criminal history led Vance’s office to pursue a homicide conviction despite dismissing the original manslaughter charge.

On Monday Shanley pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, criminally negligent homicide, and leaving the scene without reporting, according to Vance’s office and court records.

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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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No ROW Charge for Garbage Hauler Who Killed Woman in UES Crosswalk

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a private garbage truck on the Upper East Side yesterday. Police determined the driver failed to yield but did not charge him with violating the Right of Way Law.

The crash happened at around 4:30 Tuesday morning. According to reports, Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue west to east, in a crosswalk and with the signal, when the driver hit her while turning left onto the avenue from E. 92nd Street, which is one-way eastbound.

McGrath, 55, was conscious and responsive at the scene, Gothamist reported, with injuries to her head, leg, and arm. She later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The driver was a 58-year-old man whose identity was shielded by NYPD. Police summonsed the driver for failure to yield, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, but crash investigators did not file charges under the Right of Way Law. The law, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way, is supposed to deter reckless driving while providing a measure of accountability for crashes that injure and kill thousands of New Yorkers a year. It’s been on the books for 19 months, but NYPD and city district attorneys rarely apply it.

Speaking at last week’s Vision Zero Cities conference, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t know when the Right of Way Law took effect. “Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

Private sanitation trucks have the highest pedestrian kill rate of any type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Data tracked by Streetsblog show private trash haulers killed a cyclist and two pedestrians in 2015.

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NYC Drivers Injured 1,191 Pedestrians and Cyclists, and Killed 13, in February

Jose Contreras, Elise Lachowyn, Dorothy Heimann, Carol Dauplaise, and Stanley Marshall

Jose Contreras, Elise Lachowyn, Dorothy Heimann, Carol Dauplaise, and Stanley Marshall

Eighteen people died in New York City traffic in February, and 3,770 were injured, according to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of February, the city reported 26 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 2,277 injured, compared to 21 deaths and 1,896 injuries for the same period in 2015.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians and two cyclists were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Besik Shengelia, Jose Contreras, Stanley Marshall, Elise Lachowyn, Maria Minchala, Alexa Smith, Dorothy Heimann, Gwendolyn Booker, Carol Dauplaise, an unnamed female pedestrian in Brooklyn, an unnamed male pedestrian in Brooklyn, and an unnamed male pedestrian in the Bronx

Motorists killed at least two seniors in February: Dorothy Heimann, 90; and Carol Dauplaise, 77.

Across the city, 1,008 pedestrians and 183 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 12 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, three motorists were known to have been summonsed or charged criminally for causing a death.

Injuries to New York City pedestrians and cyclists are up this year compared to the same time period in 2014 and 2015. Data: Mayor's Office

Injuries to New York City pedestrians and cyclists are up this year compared to the same time period in 2014 and 2015. Data: Mayor’s Office

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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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Epileptic Cab Driver on Trial for Murder for Bronx Sidewalk Killings

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

The driver of a green cab who killed a child and a man on a Bronx sidewalk last year was charged with murder.

The Bronx district attorney’s office said Emilio Garcia was not taking his epilepsy medication when he fatally struck 4-year-old Tierre Clark and 25-year-old Kadeem Brown on the Grand Concourse at E. 170th Street on March 20, 2015.

Press accounts published after the crash said Clark injured two other people. One of the injured victims was reportedly a 55-year-old man. The other was Sanequa Howe, Tierre’s mother, who suffered bone fractures.

“When we are waiting for the bus, she gave me a kiss and she was dancing around, she never saw it coming,” Howe told WABC.

Gothamist reported that, according to the DA’s office, Garcia was aware of his epilepsy and had been in another crash, causing injuries to a second driver, four months before Tierre and Brown were killed.

The DA’s office told Streetsblog last October that Garcia was charged with manslaughter and homicide. According to court records, current charges against Garcia are two counts of murder, one count of assault (a class D felony), two counts of negligent homicide (a class E felony), and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.

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