NYPD Denies Role in Another Pedestrian Death. Kelly, Bloomberg Silent

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.

schmeer.jpgKaren Schmeer. Photo via NYT

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?

  • mike

    I think the NYPD has the Fox News syndrome — they think they can create their own reality. “We report, we decide”.

  • mike the commenter is right. Time for advocates to play the D.A. Vance card, as S’blog will assuredly do in a follow-up.

  • Excellent editorial. It shows why deaths to innocent bystanders are underreported. Please visit this website, http://www.pursuitsafety.org, to see the faces of and learn the stories about innocent bystanders who have been killed as a result of police chases for nonviolent crimes.

    In many cases, these fleeing drivers could have been caught in a safer way without putting the public in harm’s way. See our first public service announcement on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CandyPriano

    Thank you so much. You have no idea how much your editorial means to the families who have experienced these unnecessary tragedies. Police chases kill innocent bystanders every week and injure thousands annually right here in the United States.

    Candy Priano
    Executive Director
    Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY

  • I live in the area. That could have been me.

    It is worth noting that Broadway on the UWS is an eight-lane highway, yet it literally runs right through the heart of a neighborhood where pedestrians are a super-majority. Surely some of that space could be rededicated to bus and bike lanes along with other appropriate traffic calming measures without unduly impeding truck deliveries to local businesses and other necessary motorized traffic.

    This death wasn’t caused only by callous crooks or overzealous cops. It was facilitated by the design of the street itself. The people who designed this street, and who continue to operate it as a superhighway, have blood on their hands. They should be getting phone calls and mics in the face too, not just the cops.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Please stay on this story. Show up to a press conference and ask the Mayor or Kelly about it. Ask the D.A. about it. Ask local electeds and Community Board people about it. Ask her family about it. If there is law or regulation regarding high-speed police pursuit in NYC — and I believe there is — dig that up and remind us what it is.

    Maybe the cops weren’t at fault here. But this is happening too often to just accept NYPD’s word at face value.

  • 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.”

    That’s a really weird wording. Does that mean that it’s okay to have a high-speed chase if undercover detectives are the only ones in danger? Community affairs officers wearing street clothes? Or do they count as “the public”? Why not just say “people”?

  • If we had congestion pricing there would be cameras so that the car could not leave Manhattan without the plate being caught. Maybe I’m turning in to a creepy technocrat … but I don’t see why we can’t find a car full of thieves without chasing it and putting live in danger.

  • I don’t know the area that well, but assume there are more than a handful of establishments along that stretch of Broadway with surveillance cameras facing the street (banks, apt. buildings, etc.). Those tapes could prove invaluable in this investigation.

  • Erik G.
  • > there would be cameras so that the car could not leave Manhattan without the plate being caught.

    Right, but then nobody in any oppressed class would be able to leave Manhattan without being caught; and even if the people in power _now_ wouldn’t oppress “the wrong people”, the next group might.

    We shouldn’t create the tools of oppression on the excuse that the current government is benevolent. Governments change, but they never get less powerful.

  • LN

    Correction Pablo Pasarán was his name.

    http://www.ghostbikes.org/new-york-city/pablo-pasar%C3%A1n

  • Upper Broadway isn’t a highway – it’s a boulevard with a median for pedestrians. You could cut a traffic lane in each direction and put bike lanes or SBS lanes (I refuse to call them BRT), but that would be an improvement over something that’s already good, not mitigation of something that’s currently bad. Broadway isn’t Queens Boulevard.

    People get run over on slower streets, too, during pursuits. A student got run over on Amsterdam a few years ago while fleeing from a criminal gang.

    Congestion pricing technology doesn’t catch all cars on camera. A good, cost-minimizing implementation would only photograph cars not equipped with valid EZ-Pass cards in order to minimize the amount of bandwidth required to transmit the images.

  • Mike

    To the extent that there was a pursuit, it was incredibly short. I find it a little unrealistic to say that the police can’t chase a car for three blocks after a theft.

    It’s bizarre to me that the post doesn’t seem to fault the driver of the car that hit Ms. Schmeer at all. Missing the forest for the trees, perhaps?

  • Matthew Martin

    “To the extent that there was a pursuit, it was incredibly short. I find it a little unrealistic to say that the police can’t chase a car for three blocks after a theft.” — Mike

    I’m sorry, Mike, but that’s not correct. The pursuit was not a mere three blocks. I witnessed it first from the northwest corner of 90th and Broadway, where I saw the chase proceed SOUTH down Broadway at least 6-8 blocks (I don’t know how far north it had come before then). I have never seen cars travel so fast on Broadway. They had to be going 80-90 mph. It was terrifying. At some point, in the low 80’s I imagine, they reversed course and began moving NORTH up Broadway before the crash occurred at the intersection of 90th and Broadway on the east side of the boulevard. I had actually crossed the street during the interim and had just made it to the other corner when the crash occurred. So the chase must have spanned at least 10 or more blocks in EACH DIRECTION on Broadway alone (who knows how far they travelled up Amsterdam from the CVS at 86th St. before turning over to B’Way?). The NYPD has to answer for their protocols for conducting high speed chases of this nature through such pedestrian-dense neighborhoods in the cause of capturing petty thieves. Over that span of roadway at those high speeds at that time of a Friday evening, the tragedy that occurred was virtually inevitable. And why the mainstream media is not asking these questions is simply confounding.

  • SA

    I watched this horrific scene unfold in front of my very eyes from my Broadway facing bathroom window on 91st. I know what I saw and the cops were in hot pursuit without their sirens on (lights flashing only) it was only once Karen was hit that they turned their sirens on. While the driver of the car is completely at fault, I absolutely believe this entire tragedy could have been avoided had the NYPD handled the situation without a kneejerk reaction to a petty crime.

  • Jan 29 Accident

    Thank you Matthew and SA, for your accounts of the accident. I was a close friend of Karen’s and am gathering witness accounts. Could you please email me at jan29accident@gmail.com?

    I encourage anyone else who was witness to the accident and has factual information to share to write to me as well.

    Thank you.

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