Following the vehicular killing of 14-year-old Nicholas Soto in Red Hook Monday morning, anonymous police sources were quick to blame the victim, though the crash happened near a school bus and sent Soto through the air, witnesses said. According to press accounts, NYPD won’t say if the driver who struck Soto was speeding through an area of Red Hook where drivers routinely endanger lives. Meanwhile, the local precinct community council is scheduled to meet tonight.
Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Image: NY1
Soto was crossing at the corner of Lorraine Street and Hicks Street at around 7 a.m. when the unnamed driver, apparently westbound on Lorraine, slammed into him with a BMW sedan.
Photos from the scene show extensive damage to the right side of the car. The front fender was dented, the hood separated from the headlight bezel, and the windshield nearly punched through. Witnesses say Soto was hit with such force that he was propelled away from the street and over a nearby fence.
From the Post:
“He came running through here, too busy, trying to catch the [school] bus,” said Edward Austin, 54, who witnessed the tragic accident.
Austin said the boy was looking at the bus when [he] ran into the intersection and failed to see the car coming from the opposite direction.
“The car came down, he was moving too damn fast,” he continued, referring to the driver. “The poor kid was bleeding through his eyes.”
“We’re losing our kids out here because [drivers] think this is a damn highway,” Alfredo Otero, a local, told the Post. “This is not the first,” said another resident. “I seen three or four people get hit out here.”
Soto’s family and other residents of Red Hook Houses East, where the victim lived, told DNAinfo the corner of Lorraine and Hicks is “notoriously dangerous.”
Eddie Soto, Nicholas’ father, said his son’s death reflected the community’s need for safer streets.
“It’s not only about my son,” Soto said. “It’s about everyone else.”
“The driver of the BMW remained on scene and and was issued a summons for having his windows tinted illegally,” the Post reported. “Police would not say if the driver was speeding.”
It’s unusual for a New York City district attorney to charge a sober motorist who remains at the scene for killing, but it does happen. In January, Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson charged a driver with manslaughter for the death of a second driver in a crash that apparently did not involve alcohol. Last year Thompson’s predecessor Charles Hynes filed assault and homicide charges against the driver who killed 9-year-old pedestrian Lucian Merryweather and injured his younger brother, though the top charge was later downgraded to homicide. (In New York State, criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony, the least severe felony category.)
Unlike states where specific charges are prescribed for vehicular crimes, New York traffic law is highly subjective, and convictions normally depend on a prosecutor’s ability to convince a jury of a motorists’s state of mind. The probability of a serious charge after a fatal crash seems to increase when the driver’s actions are especially brazen. It must also be noted that some DAs are more aggressive than others when it comes to prosecuting vehicular crimes.