Lawsuit: AIS Rebuffed Calls From Officers at Scene of Fatal Heyworth Crash

The lawsuit filed today by Jacob Stevens renders in detail how NYPD destroyed the case against the driver who killed his wife, Clara Heyworth, by failing to investigate the crash. It’s as enraging as it is heartbreaking, all the more so considering the number of times this scenario may have played out in other fatality cases.

Per the text of the suit:

  • Officers from the 88th Precinct arrived at the scene at 2:05 a.m., approximately 15 minutes after the crash. Within one minute, an officer radioed a 911 dispatcher to say that Heyworth was likely to die. Two minutes later, the officer requested that AIS be sent to the scene, the first of “repeated attempts” to summon crash investigators.
  • While officers called for AIS, Heyworth was taken to Bellevue Hospital. Moments after her arrival, at 2:59 a.m., the NYPD dispatcher announced that AIS had cancelled its investigation. “The apparent reason for the cancellation given was ‘No DOA at loc[ation],” i.e., Heyworth was not yet dead when she arrived at Bellevue,” the suit reads.
  • One of the precinct officers at the scene suspected that driver Anthony Webb was intoxicated. Because NYPD assigns responsibility for blood alcohol tests at the scene of serious crashes to AIS, and AIS had called off its investigation, no testing equipment was available.
  • In the absence of AIS, testing equipment was brought from the 88th Precinct. After a one hour delay “due to the unavailability of the equipment,” Webb was tested and found to have a BAC of .07 percent. Webb was arrested for DWI, among other charges. It was later discovered that, though it was functioning properly, the machine used to test Webb’s BAC had not been calibrated according to manufacturer recommendations — it was last calibrated in 2007. As a result, “no evidence admissible in criminal court of Webb’s impairment was preserved.”
  • On July 11, one day after the crash, Heyworth died from her injuries. On July 14, NYPD was informed of Heyworth’s death, and resumed its investigation. By that time, according to the suit, “virtually all of the critical evidence of Webb’s culpability had already been lost or destroyed.”
  • In October 2011, prosecutors from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes told Stevens that they planned to seek a grand jury indictment of Webb for various charges, including vehicular manslaughter. Less than a week later, prosecutors said they were reconsidering their decision, due to the failure of NYPD to calibrate the breath testing equipment used to test Webb.
  • In February 2012, Hynes’s office notified Stevens that all criminal charges against Webb would be dropped due to lack of admissible evidence.

In related news, City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr., who along with James Vacca presided over the February hearing on NYPD traffic enforcement and crash investigations, was asked by Gothamist about the lawsuit. Here’s what he had to say:

“I share the concerns of Clara’s husband. We heard from many people at our hearing who were very dissatisfied with the way these investigations were conducted. Most of us agreed the AIS had to be changed. For me, a former prosecutor, there is no difference between someone who backs through an intersection at 30 mph and breaks somebody’s ankle and someone who backs through an intersection at 30 mph and kills a senior citizen.”

“See, the conduct is exactly the same, and it makes no sense to me for have one be investigated while the other one goes scot-free. I think many in the police department probably agree. The problem is that they had to set these parameters because of a lack of resources. They basically drew a line someplace because they didn’t have the manpower to get out and investigate anymore than cases involving likely to die or deaths. The number one thing that has to happen is that this unit has to be expanded. As far as I know, it has not been yet.”

NYPD has yet to adopt any reforms regarding crash investigations or street safety in the wake of the February hearing.

  • Anonymous


    I think many in the police department probably agree. The problem is that they had to set these parameters because of a lack of resources. 

    These are lies.  As anybody familiar with (i) the NYPD’s surveillance of innocent Muslims absent suspicion of any criminal wrong doing and (ii) the amount of manpower the NYPD summons for OWS, knows that it’s not a matter of lack of resources, rather a matter of priorities.  

    Oh, we have resources to stick 20 cops in Central Park to catch bikers running red lights at 7am.  But we don’t have resources to investigate accidents involving serious injury?  What a lie.  What a bunch of cowards. 

  • Anonymous

    The legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.08%. You say “Webb was tested and found to have a BAC of .007 percent”. I suspect you got the decimal point or the units wrong. The number you quote is less than one tenth of the legal limit, and does not result in significant impairment. Perhaps the right number is 0.07%, which is slightly under the legal limit, but considering that the measurement was taken one hour after the crash and the typical rate of metabolism/excretion of alcohol, would imply that he was driving with a BAC greater than 0.08%.

  • Taxpayer

    I seem to remember lots of cops in Prospect Park this winter and spring following a couple of unfortunate cyclist/pedestrian collisions, so apparently the NYPD does have resources.  What it lacks is a real sense of priorities.

  • KillMoto

    Take a bunch of police cars off the street.  Issue walking shoes and bikes.  Reap massive savings in fuel and maintenance.  Use that money to hire/train investigators. 

    Every time there is an un-investigated traffic crime, take 10 more cop cars off the road for “re priorization of resources”.  Eventually, the system will reach equilibrium, albeit the AIS investigators might have to carpool to the crime scene. 

  • Mark

    Somehow the NYPD finds the resources to put crossing guards for cars on hundreds of intersections around the city every day.  Traffic policing resources current exist, they are just directed to increasing traffic flow not safety or enforcement.  

  • Ian Turner

    Amazing that the Stevens family and council were able to get this much detail regarding the investigation in the first place. How did they pull it off?

  • J

    @8f996ad67f04aec5edcfbc5070d76441:disqus Sadly, the way NYPD manages intersections is really dangerous as well, since they REFUSE to turn off traffic signals when an officer controls an intersection. Turning off the signal is standard practice in the civilized world, since otherwise, everyone is given 2 sets of often conflicting instructions. I’ve nearly been killed a number of times when I had a green light, only to notice a car rushing towards me, waved through by an agent. It’s unbelievable.

    NYPD’s repeated refusal to even give lip service to street safety improvements gives advocates no choice but to pursue change through legislation and lawsuits. It is outrageous that an agency with “Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect” emblazoned on all of their vehicles, has so little of any of those qualities.

  • Ian, the details form the complaint came from documents disclosed pursuant to a Freedom of Information request by Stevens upon the NYPD.  Although it may be too soon to tell, our law office has found that NYPD seems a bit more responsive to such requests from family members since the Lefevre litigation.  We hope we are right about this, and thank NYPD if that is in fact so.

  • Anonymous

    Ian,

    The details came from the radio broadcasts by the police officers that night, which were disclosed following a Freedom of Information Law request we made on behalf of Jacob Stevens.  Incidentally, we find that NYPD has been somewhat more responsive to Freedom of Information Law requests from crash victim’s families since the Lefevre litigation.  We hope the trend continues. 

  • Eric McClure

    Pray that any person you care about who gets seriously injured or killed happens to be a Muslim and/or a black or Hispanic male between the ages of 15 and 34.  They seem to be the people the NYPD brass is most interested in investigating.

  • Years ago in Staten Island, an off duty or retired police sergeant beat charges of manslaughter in a DWI case partly because the device that was used to test his BAC was defective. 

    You’d think the NYPD would make sure such important testing equipment was working perfectly and calibrated properly.  It seems like they do not take this issue seriously at all. 

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