Victim’s Family to NYPD: Tell Us What Happened to Our Son

"All we know is what we have read in the papers," said Erika Lefevre about the hit-and-run collision that killed her son Mathieu. Photo copyright ##http://gudphoto.com/bikenyc/2011/10/26/rally-for-traffic-justice/##Dmitry Gudkov##

The family of Mathieu Lefevre, the 30-year-old artist killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike in East Williamsburg last week, was joined by dozens of supporters outside 1 Police Plaza today to demand that NYPD rein in deadly driving and end its policy of silence when it comes to fatal traffic crashes.

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, began the rally by reading from a list of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers killed this year at the hands of motorists who faced no charges of any kind. While drivers continue “killing with impunity on a daily basis,” said White, NYPD has “consistently failed” to take action to stop the violence.

In 2010, White said, 269 people died in New York City traffic. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of preventable death for the city’s children, and from 2000 to 2009 more New Yorkers were killed by cars than guns. Addressing his remarks to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, White said: “You are failing to enforce a basic standard of due care.”

The devastation wrought by the city’s traffic fatality epidemic is made worse by NYPD’s practice of withholding crash information, even from family members of victims. Lefevre’s parents traveled from western Canada immediately upon hearing of their son’s death. Since then, said his mother Erika, they have learned little about the crash.

“All we know is what we have read in the papers,” said Lefevre. Last Friday, the Lefevres waited all day at NYPD headquarters, but were told nothing. No one was available to speak with them over weekend, said Lefevre, and since Monday they have been passed from desk to desk. NYPD revealed to the family that the truck that hit Mathieu, identifiable from visible damage, was found two blocks from the crash site, and that the driver was located through the company that owns the truck. The Lefevres were not given the name of the company or the driver. As for the crash itself, the only details they have been made privy to are time and location. Lefevre said the family was told today that “charges were dropped” against the driver, though she isn’t sure charges were filed in the first place.

Lefevre said that, according to police, the driver of the truck that killed Mathieu was “likely unaware” of the collision.

Intensifying the agony of the families of crash victims is as deeply ingrained in NYPD culture as the department’s laissez-faire approach to traffic enforcement. White said the buck stops at the top.

“Ultimately, what needs to happen is we need leadership,” said White, calling on Kelly and, especially, Bloomberg to tap the city government talent pool to reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

In the case of Mathieu Lefevre, White believes the driver should at minimum be charged under the state’s vulnerable user laws, which have yet to be applied with any regularity by NYPD since they were adopted a year ago.

In the meantime, the Lefevres continue to wait for answers. Erika Lefevre said the last time she talked to her son, who rode his bike regularly during the one and a half years he lived in Brooklyn, was when he called her on October 10, her birthday.

“Mathieu’s life was cut short before he had a chance to develop into what he would become,” Lefevre said. “It is very important that we know the circumstances of our son’s death.”

  • Bikinginheels

    So heartbreaking.

    Bloomburg has been so progressive about alternative transportation, I’m surprised that he hasn’t been more assertive in directing the NYPD to be more vigilant about enforcement.

  • Anonymous

    These poor people are being treated the same as people trying to get answers about why their flight is delayed or where their missing package is or any of the other places we usually get no answers, but in this instance, it is the death of their son they are being stonewalled about. It’s just not acceptable, NYPD.

  • KeNYC2030

    Does the NYPD’s apparent mission to protect drivers at all costs overcome even human decency?  The contrast to the reception they would get from law enforcement in their native land must be shocking to these poor people.  We should all be ashamed.     

  • dporpentine

    Really wish I could’ve been there.

    Have to admit I had this hope that the Marilyn Dershowitz killing would draw more attention to how the police handle cyclists’ deaths. But, no, it’s business as usual: cyclist at fault, driver okay, keep moving, nothing to see here.

  • Anonymous

    I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that this will lead the NYPD to actually care.  Remember, this is the same department whose ‘Finest’ have in the past month been caught in gun-running, planting drugs, rape at gunpoint, ticket-fixing, assaults on protestors, multiple DUI’s, and other misdeeds.  The same NYPD that has a massive ax to grind against anyone on two wheels because of Critical Mass mishaps that happened a decade ago or more.  The same NYPD whose officers continually flout traffic and parking laws with impunity.

  • I couldn’t help but notice, while we were standing in support of Mathieu, the frequent arrival of electrically assisted cyclists laden with lunch orders for the officers inside. They rode all the way up to the French barriers that barricade the department from the public it serves. I don’t even think that sort of thing, riding a clear path through a plaza, should be forbidden by law—but it is. Like so many people in our city, the police are happy to reap the rewards of bicycle transportation. They just don’t want to take any responsibility for it.

  • Anonymous

    Its like NYPDs reputation changed places with LAPD.  I wish could have made the rally.  My thoughts are with the Leferes family right now.

  • Someone’s father

    Shame on Ray Kelley.

  • Ian Dutton

    The NYPD fails in its basic mission to protect and to serve. For all the individuals in the department who really want to do the right thing – and there are surely many – the inertia at the very top and the fear of retribution against the mayor ensures that we all continue to suffer.

  • David

    It’s a dangerous place to bike since it’s industrial.  Clearly bikers need to be very wary of these trucks.  I don’t know what happened but I can see the possibility that the truck driver did not see the biker as reported.  Horrible story. The family should know the details.

  • I am really sorry for the lost of that people. And they certainly deserve to know the truth about that accident.

  • Anonymous

    The cops probably don’t want to disclose any details because it will reveal their own negligence in handling the case, and open up a can of worms involving all the other obviously mishandled cases.  We know they will protect their own at all costs.  Someone needs to hold them to account.

  • It’s time the kids rise up and Occupy All Streets!

  • Massive

    When will ‘failure to yield’ be viewed as criminal negligence?

  • JK

    The DA’s are elected, the police commissioner is not. Transportation Alternatives did a great job challenging the Manhattan DA candidates to do more about dangerous drivers before the last election. TA needs to keep going. The DA’s can investigate any death regardless of police determination. The DA’s should start automatically investigating all cycling and pedestrian deaths. These vulnerable road users depend on the law for protection. They have no steel safety cage or airbags like motorists. The family of Mathew Lefevre should be banging on the door of the Bklyn DA and demanding an accounting.

  • we need to levy a “safety tax ” on drivers so that they pay for all the police personnel busy at protecting them.. NOT US 
    I do not want to  pay for their salary any longer . 

  • carma

    @twitter-365245266:disqus 

    How would another TAX help the situation?  you cant tax your way to fixing all problems.

    the problem is the lax enforcement, NOT a revenue issue.

  • Anonymous

    I think Christine is simply pointing out the fact that we all chip in to pay for the police (and all other auto subsidies) but they only look out for the interests of drivers when it comes to these frequent tragedies. 

    Maybe its more fair to reduce taxes for people who don’t have cars–like that will ever happen.

  • Ian Turner

    @d8d46f16f380afef59ca318522397233:disqus: Would at least make driving less attractive, thus encouraging people to give up their cars.

  • Anonymous

    JK is right – the DA’s office is the fulcrum on which public pressure is most likely to get some kind of results.

    The DA can decide to pursue charges regardless of police determination (although it is very rare that would pursue charges after police have determined “no criminality was involved”.)

    Perhaps more importantly, police will be more likely to bring a criminal complaint if they believe the DA will pursue charge.  Police officers want to write tickets and make arrests – that is what they get paid for – and if they can get credit towards their “performance targets” by arresting or citing drivers then I’m sure most of them would shift their behavior accordingly.

    As it stands now, the police know that the DA will not pursue the charges unless there is pretty overwhelming evidence, so they generally don’t bother to waste their time on paperwork for a case that won’t go anywhere.

    Police may be lazy and corrupt, but they respond rationally to economic incentives just like everyone else.

  • Jhalldor

    Shameful

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