No Charges for Curb-Jumping Driver Who Killed Michael Munoz in Queens

Photo: New York Post

Another curb-jumping driver has killed a NYC pedestrian, and as usual no charges have been filed by NYPD.

Michael Munoz, 42, was selling water on a Whitestone Expressway service road at 20th Avenue, in Queens, when he was struck at around 2:15 p.m. Monday. From WABC:

The 78-year-old driver was in a black Toyota Camry when investigators say for one reason or another, the driver lost control of the vehicle and slammed into Munoz and a steel post that holds a gate entering a corporate plaza.

The car hit with such force that it nearly pushed the post out of the asphalt.

Munoz died at New York Hospital in Queens. The driver and a passenger were treated for injuries.

Michael Munoz. Photo via NY Post

Neither police nor WABC reporter Joe Torres are apparently interested in why the driver “lost control,” but Torres does include this bit of victim-blaming: “Eyewitness News has learned that Munoz sold water not just from the sidewalk, but also from right on the service road.”

At least nine NYC pedestrians have died in 2013 after motorists drove onto sidewalks, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and countless victims have sustained life-altering injuries. Unless a driver is drunk or fleeing police, curb-jump crashes, no matter how severe, rarely result in criminal charges. City Council Member Mark Weprin is exploring the possibility of legislation that would make it a crime to drive on a New York City sidewalk.

Reports say Munoz suffered a serious head injury, and that a witness performed CPR until responders arrived. He lived in a nearby hotel with his father, and was selling bottles of water to motorists after he lost his job as a tennis coach, according to the Queens Courier and the Post.

The victim’s brother told WABC that their mother was killed by a driver years ago. “I’m angry but that’s not gonna do nothing, I’m more sad because I’m not going to see my brother again,” said Raphael Munoz. “We were just making plans to go see my mother at the graveyard.”

Less than four hours after the crash, the Post reported that, according to NYPD, “no criminality” is suspected.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Brian J. Maguire, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call the precinct at 718-321-2268 for information.

Michael Munoz was killed on the border of City Council districts represented by Dan Halloran and Peter Koo. Halloran is a lame duck under federal indictment. Contact Koo to encourage him to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, well if he plied his trade in the road at any time, fair game to run him over on the sidewalk.

  • Frank Dell

    Glad Joe Torres and WABC solved the case. I do wonder how Eyewitness News “learned” that Torres sold water on the service road.

  • Anonymous

    Steve,

    Why can’t they prosecute drivers under plain criminally negligence homicide standards? Does criminal negligence in NY require violating a criminal statute and b/c “not driving on sidewalks” = non-criminal statute, defendants don’t satisfy the “negligence per-se” hook? I just don’t get it. Driving on the sidewalk, to me at least, should be res ipso loquiter rebuttable presumption of negligence.

    I’m not a litigator but I feel like I could have a field day proving negligence in a civil/wrongful death action.

  • They could. They just don’t want to. It would bring down their conviction stats.

  • Anonymous

    On the civil side, assuming that Mr. Munoz didn’t step right off the curb into the car’s bumper, then it will be a pretty straight forward case.

    Criminally it gets murky because the language of the criminal statute, and the defined terms it relies on are rather vague and open to interpretation and require gross negligence, not just simple negligence, so its a higher standard to meet.

    While you and I would say it is “grossly” negligent to end up with your car on the sidewalk, as can be seen from many comments to local news articles, there are a lot of people who say “hey accidents happen” and they can too easily see themselves as the one who ends up on the sidewalk by “accident” someday. They might be willing to award money damages to the family of the deceased, but voting for a criminal conviction might be beyond what they are willing to do. Still, would love to see a DA push it and start creating some precedence that would help change the culture.

    N.Y. Penal Law § 125.10 Criminally negligent homicide.
    “A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with
    criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person.
    Criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony.”

    N.Y. Penal Law § 15.05 Culpability; definitions of culpable mental states.
    “…4. “Criminal negligence.” A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.”

  • Anonymous

    Queenswatcher said it all. What’s a “gross deviation” from what is reasonable? It’s different for different people. Probably very different for most cops and prosecutors than for folks who read this blog. We have to change the law so that a driver who strikes a pedestrian on the sidewalk and can’t explain why it isn’t his/her fault faces some kind of criminal sanction, even if it just a misdemeanor. That is the only way that the DMV will take license action.

  • Joe R.

    The license action which the DMV should take in such an instance is permanent loss of driving privileges. I can’t think of too many instances where a car ending up on a sidewalk isn’t at least partially the driver’s fault.

  • Andrew

    Presumably from an unbiased source like the driver himself.

  • Andrew

    Did he have a permit to sell water? If not, then of course he deserved to be killed.

    Or maybe he was using a cell phone? Or was thinking about a cell phone? Or had a cell phone in his pocket? Or once saw an advertisement for a cell phone? In that case, he was asking for it.

  • Dawn

    Andrew you are a POS. Who the hell are you to say that Michael deserved to die I knew Michael personally, and not for nothing, my heart breaks for your mindset. I hope that you don’t lose a close friend or relative in an accident. And having to experience what his family and friends are going though in this sad situation.

  • Andres

    Sarcasm, heard of it?

  • Dawn

    Andres. Let me know how you would feel or take that when someone your know, love and care for dies. And people have a comment like that and you read it. Then tell me how you feel.

  • Ralph Munoz

    Many comments here very insensitive and cruel to put it kindly.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry for your loss, to all the relatives and friends of Michael Munoz. If I can speak for some of my fellow commenters here whom I know from previous posts to this blog, I’m certain that the sarcasm in the comments was directed at WABC reporter Joe Torres, who unfairly put blame on the victim by emphasizing out that he had previously been walking on the roadway–something that, even if true, is completely irrelevant given that he was struck on the sidewalk.

  • KillMoto

    Could the lack of any penalty for drivers killing people with cars on the sidewalk be used as a defense by cyclists ticketed for riding on the sidewalk? Especially the 99.9999999% of cyclists who ride on sidewalks without killing people?

    It seems there’s a gross disparity in the law. A fundamental inequality so to speak.

    Off topic, I apologize. Nothing we can do now for Mr. Munoz, except perhaps make a (small?) example of the driver – but that won’t happen.

  • JamesR

    Mr. Munoz, please be aware that a number of the comments are intended as sarcasm – utterly inappropriate sarcasm, but sarcasm nonetheless.

    This isn’t the place for it. Too easy to misinterpret.

  • Ralph Munoz

    Ok thank you for explanation James R., very strange way to make joke or sarcasm since it is a very serious problem in New York City.

  • Andrew

    @33d334599fca42b64da7d2c44ddce017:disqus is correct – look at my Disqus posting history if you’re in doubt. My comment was a parody of the comments that we see far too often when a negligent motorist kills or severely injures a pedestrian.

    I apologize if I offended you, and I hope you will take this opportunity to join the effort in some way to make our streets safe.

  • Allison Krohn

    Ralph I’m so sorry for your loss. Mike was an old friend of mine and he will be missed. The Rangers games will never be the same for me again! Please don’t let these people who left stupid, disgraceful and purely moronic comments here get to you. If it was their family they surely would not be commenting that way. Have their been any funeral arrangements made??

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