The New York City Police Department denies that it was involved in a high-speed police chase preceding the vehicle-on-pedestrian collision that took the life of Violetta Kryzak, a 38-year-old Polish-American mother and Greenpoint resident, despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary first published by Streetsblog.
On Monday, at the 94th Precinct Community Council’s monthly meeting, Deputy Inspector Dennis Fulton, the precinct’s commanding officer, told approximately 40 assembled neighbors, “At this point it appears as though there was not a high-speed chase,” adding, “To make sure, it’s being investigated by our Internal Affairs Bureau. But it does not appear that anyone was following [the perpetrator].”
Fulton’s statement contradicts numerous eyewitness accounts of the fatal crash. Three weeks ago, I reported on this tragedy for Streetsblog, and everyone I spoke with seemed sure that the police had pursued a white mini-van up Manhattan Avenue at a very high speed. The day of the crash I was told by Kamil Uminski, a 20-year-old man who witnessed the van strike Violetta Kryzak, “There were two cops chasing a white van up the avenue.”
Less than an hour after I heard Deputy Inspector Fulton deny that there was a high-speed chase, I emailed with a neighborhood mom named Sydney, who claims to have seen an unmarked police vehicle pursuing the white mini-van. I don’t have Sydney’s last name, only her email address, as a mutual friend put us in touch when I told her I was writing a follow-up story about this incident. Sydney replied to my inquiry: “I was slowly driving down Manhattan Avenue between Bedford Ave. and Norman Ave. headed west [Editor’s note: eight blocks south of where the fatal collision took place] when the mini-van flew past my truck very close at an unbelievable speed nearly taking my rear view mirror with it. The van was occupying the opposite lane of Manhattan Avenue, which is a two-lane street and also headed west, in other words driving head-on into oncoming traffic. Seconds after the van passed my truck an undercover cop car in hot pursuit passed me traveling at the same speed and following the van as it weaved through traffic down the busy street.”
Yet another eyewitness, Cody Dennison, who claims to have seen police officers pursuing the white mini-van ten blocks south of the crash site, responded to an inquiry by email. He wrote: “The white mini-van was being pursued by a gray 4-door undercover police sedan with siren lights driving just as fast as the mini-van. I think there were two gray sedans but they were moving so fast I only saw one for sure. I saw the one gray sedan just as plain as day. And I said out loud, ‘Why would they chase the driver towards the precinct?’"
Why indeed? According to the NYPD Patrol Guide: “Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if [the] suspect is not immediately apprehended.”
An afternoon high-speed car chase down Manhattan Avenue, a relatively narrow two-way street with two travel lanes, two parking lanes, two bus routes, scores of storefronts, a handful of churches and high pedestrian volumes, must outweigh the danger posed to the community by all but the most dangerous criminals, let alone Jose Maldonado, the 28-year old car thief who struck and killed Violetta Kryzak.
Everyone in the neighborhood knows as much, and I imagine the police officers at the 94th Precinct do as well. Perhaps this is why Deputy Inspector Fulton denied that there was a chase: To admit as much would be to admit that his officer’s acted negligently and violated procedural guidelines.
Either that’s the case or the eyewitnesses I’ve spoken to are mistaken.
The police department has not responded to numerous requests for comment.