NYPD and the Press Parrot Driver’s Account of Crash That Killed Lisa Julian

Yesterday’s fatal East Village crash is another example of how NYPD and the press blame deceased pedestrians and cyclists based mostly on the word of the drivers who killed them.

“Woman, 47, crossing against light in NoHo struck by car, killed on Thursday,” read the Daily News headline. But the only evidence presented that Lisa Julian was crossing against the light came from Oliver Parris, who hit her with an SUV as she crossed Third Avenue at St. Marks Place at around 6:30 a.m.

Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post
Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post

Here’s Parris, as quoted by the Daily News:

“I was trying to swerve from her and I couldn’t do it in time,” said Parris, who said that Julian was crossing against the light. Parris was on his way home from his job as a newspaper deliveryman at the time of the accident.

“She was walking,” he said. “I don’t think she was paying attention.”

And the Post:

“She was crossing against the light. I had a green light,” he said sadly.

“I tried to avoid her. I swerved.”

Julian was pronounced dead at Beth Israel hospital. “She was a loving, upbeat, and interesting person,” Alexander Rubinstein, the victim’s boyfriend, told the Post. “She was very happy. It’s tough to talk about her right now.”

Reporters for the Daily News, the Post, and DNAinfo take care to note that Parris was upset, and that he did not flee the scene. These details cast Parris in a sympathetic light, and are offered in lieu of critical analysis. Not only do reporters accept Parris’s word that it was Julian who disregarded the signal, they don’t question whether Parris himself was “paying attention,” though state law requires motorists to exercise due care to avoid running people over.

Assuming that Julian did cross against the signal raises other issues. If reports are correct that Parris was driving straight ahead, why didn’t he see Julian in the street in front of him? How close did he get before he saw her? Why did he have to swerve in the first place? This information is critical to determining how the crash occurred. While it may be too early to expect answers to all these questions, it’s also premature to accept the driver’s account as definitive.

Though data consistently show drivers are usually at fault in crashes that injure and kill NYC pedestrians, NYPD and the press are quick to assign responsibility to those who can’t speak for themselves. NYPD blamed cyclists Rasha Shamoon and Stefanos Tsigrimanis for their own deaths based largely on the drivers’ version of events. Shamoon was vindicated by a civil jury, which found the motorist almost completely culpable for the collision that took her life. Investigators didn’t visit the Tsigrimanis crash scene for 46 days, but still concluded he ran a stop sign based on the recollections of two drivers, including the one who struck Tsigrimanis, even though both drivers admitted they did not see him until the moment of impact.

Parris was not immediately charged by police or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, and if tradition holds, he won’t be. As far as the public knows, Lisa Julian was one more pedestrian who died because she failed to look out for an unwitting motorist.

This fatal crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Rosie Mendez, and in the 9th Precinct, where as of February officers had ticketed two drivers for speeding in 2014.

  • Albert

    This epidemic of rogue pedestrians defiantly hurling themselves at motor vehicles must be halted.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    Most of the time drivers seem more likely to honk their horn when someone crosses “against the light” than use their brakes. Maybe they take their foot of the gas a bit, but from observation . . . . they are quicker to the horn than to try actually slow down. Is honking really that much less of an effort than braking, especially when you risk hitting and most likely killing or maiming someone?

  • Reader

    This is the biggest problem with blind fidelity to the rules, which New York City, especially the NYPD, seems obsessed with. In that context, “I had the light” becomes enough of a defense to get away with killing someone, details be damned.

  • It’s one of those situations where you really could illuminate the difference between “unavoidable collision” and “ill-tempered driver plays chicken with pedestrian and wins”. The latter is not acceptable.

    There must be some security video available (brand new hotel/office buildings + a senior residence surround the scene), but one could make a really solid case in this scenario without video that only a speeding, reckless, or intentional driver could inflict deadly injury on a pedestrian on this street (30mph speed limit) when the sightlines are clear. If Lisa tried to cross at a clear curb line, it’s almost certainly on the driver to see her coming and stop in-time.

  • ddartley

    The second and third items (and probably many others) on this (late photographer’s) blog are about Julian: http://neithermorenorless.blogspot.com/search?q=Spike

  • guest

    Well written; thank you Brad. The dead have no voice and even if Lisa indeed wasn’t “paying attention,” it merits investigation to see if the driver was paying attention. Speeding is rampant on that stretch of 3rd Ave, especially early in the morning when there aren’t that many cars on the road yet. If only we could trust that NYPD will do a solid investigation…

    And because nobody deserves to die if they make a mistake (such as crossing against the light, IF this is what happened), we do need to push for a lower speed limit on city streets. As you’ve often written, there is a much lower chance of surviving after being hit at 30mph (or 40mph, as so many drivers go in NYC), than at 20mph.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    A pedestrian hit at 30 mph has an 80% chance of survival. Just using math alone you can conclude that the fact Ms Julian died means it’s highly unlikely that the driver was obeying the 30 mph limit.

    But I’m just stating the obvious.

  • KillMoto

    In the 21st century, we need to start with the presumption that the killer motorist is at fault, then allow the motorist to introduce testimony (e.g., the black box proves driving at reasonable speed, driver did try to brake, etc.) Like Sammy Davis Jr Jr said: the fact the victim died is at the very least probable cause to believe the driver was speeding.

  • Kevin Love

    Yes, those naughty rogue pedestrians have got to stop begriming cars with their blood as they get crushed to death.

  • ALina

    You have your numbers wrong: a pedestrian hit at 30mph has only a about a 50-50 chance of survival according to most studies. At 40mph it’s 15%. At 20mph it would be a 95% chance of survival.

  • poy

    Are you sure?


    I used to see these all over the place saying 80% chance of survival if hit at 30mph.

  • Guest

    Don’t hold your breath on the NYPD pulling private security video.

    They said they didn’t have any evidence for the pedestrian killed at Union Square… until the Citibank cameras were specifically discussed on Streetsblog…

  • Guest

    The NYPD is definitely on those jaywalking pedestrians!
    They’re all over the subway performers too.

    Drunk driving by off-duty cops, though, is just a professional courtesy.

  • Eric McClure

    This drives me crazy. Honk first, brake only as a last resort.

  • ? It’s called survivor bias and everyone examining collision statistics should have a working knowledge of it. When the police commissioner can blithely pull a pedestrians-mostly-at-fault number out of thin air, it should be one of the first things to come to mind.

  • specq

    or even speed up, to “teach them a lesson.”

  • No, that’s if the driver was doing the speed limit and paying attention before the wreck then the weapon vehicle would slow to a point that 80% of pedestrians would live.