In what has become an all-too-familiar scene, NYPD is denying reports that a police chase led to the death of a pedestrian after an incident of petty theft on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Karen Schmeer, 39, was an acclaimed film editor known for her work with documentarian Errol Morris. At approximately 8 p.m. Friday, Schmeer was crossing Broadway at 90th Street when she was struck by the driver of a rented Dodge. She was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt.
One of the men in the car, 25-year-old David McKie, was arrested after fleeing the vehicle. He was charged with second-degree murder. Two other suspects are still at large. The three were reported to have stolen some over-the-counter allergy medication from a nearby CVS pharmacy. The Daily News reports:
A police source said cops tried to pull over the suspects minutes before the crash, but they lost the car momentarily.
When they caught up with the vehicle, it had already struck Schmeer, as well as several other vehicles.
Witnesses at the scene painted a slightly different picture, saying they saw the car weaving in and out of traffic going north on Broadway with a squad car with lights and sirens blaring in hot pursuit.
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." The Times’ coverage of Schmeer’s death takes the chase scenario as a point of fact, but does not indicate that the paper attempted to get an explanation as to why officers would be engaged in a high-speed pursuit on the Upper West Side at dinner time on a Friday.
Of the Times story, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog: "That report is wrong." The spokesperson declined to elaborate and directed us to submit further questions via email. NYPD has not replied to email queries about the circumstances of the crash and whether police violated protocol. Neither Commissioner Ray Kelly nor Mayor Bloomberg have apparently seen it necessary to address the witness accounts of a high-speed pursuit.
Schmeer’s death marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes in which pursuing officers are suspected or known to be involved. Last spring, Streetsblog talked to several witnesses who said a car thief was fleeing police when he hit and killed 38-year-old Greenpoint mother Violetta Kryzak. The commanding officer of Brooklyn’s 94th Precinct said the department had "no indication" that a pursuit occurred.
One year ago, a video camera captured an apparent Staten Island chase that led to the death of a couple with young sons. "At no time was this vehicle pursued," said an NYPD spokesperson.
Last August, 27-year-old restaurant worker and father of three Pablo Pasares was run down in Long Island City by a man after an alleged drug buy. Detectives "were chasing the guy," said one witness. "He lost control." In this case, police apparently did not deny a chase had taken place.
And just last week, cops embarked on a "high-speed, multi-collision chase" through Red Hook and Brooklyn Heights that, miraculously, ended up damaging only a few parked cars and the police cruiser.
The list goes on, and the question remains: How can NYPD support its claim that it did nothing wrong when witnesses say otherwise?