Must-Read: 94th Pct Detectives Blew Off Near-Fatal Hit-and-Run Investigation

Camille Dodero at the Village Voice brings us the most in-depth piece of NYC traffic justice reporting in recent memory. It’s the story of Michelle Matson, who was struck from behind and left for dead by a hit-and-run driver while she was riding her bike in Greenpoint last October. While Matson and her boyfriend, James Paz, who was also injured in the collision, knew the NYPD had identified the vehicle that struck them, they were repeatedly rebuffed by the detective assigned to the case when they pressed him about the investigation into who had been driving that night.

Michelle Matson was hospitalized for three weeks with injuries she sustained in an October 23, 2010 hit-and-run crash. She told the Voice that the detective assigned to her case blew off the investigation: "All the evidence they could have gotten, they can't get now." Photo: ##http://www.villagevoice.com/photoGallery/index/2736979/2/##Village Voice##

Here’s Dodero’s set-up:

What James didn’t realize is that even though the ditched car was found within 24 hours, a 1990 Nissan Maxima abandoned two blocks southeast of the accident scene, the police would never make any arrests. And that the detective assigned to the case would tell James, as the victim has consistently recalled for months, that the vehicle owner claimed he’d lost his keys at a local bar that same night and walked home—and that without an eyewitness putting him in the driver’s seat, there was nothing that could be done. When James or Michelle asked what drinking establishment the auto owner had patronized and whether the police had questioned anybody there or if there were any clues in the car, the officer would become dismissive. They eventually stopped calling. According to the official police complaint, the unidentified hit-and-run driver’s highest offense would be categorized a misdemeanor, which seemed preposterous, all things considered.

Please read Camille’s piece. This is the kind of street safety reporting that should be getting massive attention and pageviews instead of the divisive, cookie-cutter car-vs.-bike-vs.-ped stuff we usually see from our tabloid dailies.

  • Stephen Dodgson Truck

    Hey Ben, when are you going to start reporting on bike-on-bike accidents, the vast majority of which caused by idiots you– directly or in– encouraged to ride?

    “Funny” too how photogenic white people get such attention in the press and those who aren’t… don’t.

    The Voice story, if true in all particulars, is upsetting but HARDLY unique to bicycles: that’s where you reveal yourself either ignorant or a solipsist.

    Which is it, champ?

  • @230391224ef00c6422c5d71533f95f32:disqus  Thanks for parachuting in… Show me again where I say that NYPD’s lazy approach to crash investigations is unique to cases where cyclists are the victims? If you read Camille’s piece, you’ll see that I characterize the problem as a general failure of the police to treat pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities with the seriousness they deserve.

  • Stephen, would you mind telling us what the fuck your problem is?

  • Driver

    Stephen, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a transportation blog.  The failings of the NYPD in investigating other crimes, while a real problem, falls out of the scope of this blog. 

    An article in the VV does not exactly constitute “such attention in the press”, and the picture posted here with the story is not exactly “photogenic”. 

  • Driver

    Stephen, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a transportation blog.  The failings of the NYPD in investigating other crimes, while a real problem, falls out of the scope of this blog. 

    An article in the VV does not exactly constitute “such attention in the press”, and the picture posted here with the story is not exactly “photogenic”. 

  • Commenter 79

    If the Daily News, the Post and Marcia Kramer want to run a worthwhile tabloid vendetta truly in the public interest, this set of stories is far more worthy than all of the bike lane garbage they’ve been doing.

  • Eric McClure

    Horrifying.  I hope Michelle continues to recover and some day might have the desire to get back on a bicycle.

    So, how do we do something about the NYPD’s failure to treat seriously injuries to pedestrians and cyclists?  Nothing should be completely intractable.  Might be a good topic for a Streetsblog or TA summit.  Or maybe we should be petitioning Peter Vallone Jr. to hold a Public Safety Committee hearing.

  • Anonymous

    My best wishes for these poor folks.

    @EricMcClure:disqus In the comments on the VV, someone said putting detectives who are in charge of investigating murders in charge of investigating these sorts of incidents is probably a bad idea. I tend to agree, even if it is a horrifying thought: if you’re investigating narco-homicides etc then a traffic fatality is small fry. 

    Unfortunately, these criminals thrive when the law is not enforced.

    Time and time again we’ve seen clearly lousy drivers literally get away with murder. Maybe TA & the Streetsblog community should push for the establishment of borough-wide task forces whose sole job is to investigate car-on-ped, car-on-bike crime. 

  • Anonymous

    My best wishes for these poor folks.

    @EricMcClure:disqus In the comments on the VV, someone said putting detectives who are in charge of investigating murders in charge of investigating these sorts of incidents is probably a bad idea. I tend to agree, even if it is a horrifying thought: if you’re investigating narco-homicides etc then a traffic fatality is small fry. 

    Unfortunately, these criminals thrive when the law is not enforced.

    Time and time again we’ve seen clearly lousy drivers literally get away with murder. Maybe TA & the Streetsblog community should push for the establishment of borough-wide task forces whose sole job is to investigate car-on-ped, car-on-bike crime. 

  • Anonymous

    My best wishes for these poor folks.

    @EricMcClure:disqus In the comments on the VV, someone said putting detectives who are in charge of investigating murders in charge of investigating these sorts of incidents is probably a bad idea. I tend to agree, even if it is a horrifying thought: if you’re investigating narco-homicides etc then a traffic fatality is small fry. 

    Unfortunately, these criminals thrive when the law is not enforced.

    Time and time again we’ve seen clearly lousy drivers literally get away with murder. Maybe TA & the Streetsblog community should push for the establishment of borough-wide task forces whose sole job is to investigate car-on-ped, car-on-bike crime. 

  • kevd

    Though he is clearly an enormous douche and probably mentally unhinged, Stephen does make one valid point.  And that is the attention paid to young white women versus the attention paid to anyone else, when they are the victims of traffic crime or any other crime.  If you’re looking for a big old fashioned media circus, just wait for a pretty young white woman to be injured, robbed, murdered or raped.  It seems to happen at least a couple of times a year in NYC.  Meanwhile women (and especially men) of color are victims of similar crimes, and the media don’t even notice.  A single Village Voice (that still exists, huh?) is not a media circus of the sort I’m describing.  

    By pointing out the lack of attention paid to the suffering and death of the non-white, the immigrant and the poor I don’t mean to take anything away from this injustice or Michelle’s suffering, only point out that there are similar injustices that don’t make it into any media other than SB.

  • @kevdflb:disqus We can’t do much about the fickleness of the media. And it’s true that “it’s all fun and games until a white girl is hurt.” Well, a white girl is hurt. Do we just let it blow over, and be all fun and games again, or do we start pushing for changes so it doesn’t happen to anyone?

  • v.v.

    “Ordinary New Yorker” don’t write the daily news letters about this, so it might as well not exist.
     

  • kevd

    @ IRMO.
    Publicise this travesty.  Push for changes.  Continue publicising traffic crimes against all victims, white, black, brown, young, old, rich & poor as only SB really does.

    I was just saying that part of Stephen’s rant is a just a crazy person’s response (misdirected, and unhinged) to a very real problem, the disparity of the media’s focus depending on who the victim is, and their de facto position that some victims matter more than others.

  • Eric McClure

    Kira Goddard got a lot more ink than Michelle Matson.  So did the Raquel Nelson case.  Both here and may other places, and rightly so.  But laying the blame at the feet of Streetsblog for what is a serious problem with the MSM is flatly bogus.

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