NYPD Fails to Charge Driver Who Killed a Child in Red Hook This Morning

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps
Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a teenager in Red Hook this morning.

Nicholas Soto, 14, was crossing Lorraine Street at Hicks Street at around 7:00 when the driver of a BMW sedan slammed into him.

From WNBC:

Witnesses said the force of the impact flung the boy up in the air and over a fence.

Millie Mendez said the sound of the boy being hit was so loud she thought two cars had collided. When she realized it was a boy, not a car, that had been hit, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“He was bleeding everywhere,” Mendez said.

Mendez and others told WNBC speeding is a problem in the area. “The cars come like they’re on a thruway,” Mendez said. “They need a light, speed bump, they need something on this corner because this is dangerous right here,” said resident Edward Ulsalston.

Photos from the scene show the BMW with front end damage and a cracked windshield, signs that the victim was thrown onto the hood. Though photos and witness accounts point to driver speed as a factor, police told WNBC that “No criminality is suspected.”

Daily News reporter Rocco Parascandola, meanwhile, cited an unnamed police source who blamed the victim.

A 14-year-old racing to catch a school bus was struck and killed by a car in Brooklyn Monday morning, police said.

Nicholas Soto was rushing across Hicks St. at Lorraine St. just before 7 a.m. when he was struck by a 2004 BMW heading west on Lorraine.

Nicholas, who lived nearby, died a short time later at Methodist Hospital.

The driver remained at the scene and will not likely be charged.

A police source said the teen’s vision may have been partially obstructed by his hoodie.

“It appears to be a tragic accident,” the source said.

Note that while the anonymous source and Parascandola describe Soto as “racing” and “rushing,” with his vision obscured by his own sweatshirt, the only thing said about the driver, reportedly a 28-year-old man from New Jersey, is that he was “heading west” on Lorraine Street. (Multiple reports cite police as saying Soto was crossing Hicks, but a Post photo appears to indicate he was crossing Lorraine at Hicks from north to south.) 

This crash happened on a neighborhood street where kids were boarding a school bus — a situation where anyone with a driver’s license should know to look for children. Why did the driver not slow down? How did he fail to see Soto in broad daylight? Who had the right of way? Such details are crucial to understanding how this crash occurred, yet the Daily News chose to focus exclusively on the actions of the deceased child.

Not to be outdone, the Post reported that the proximate cause of the collision was the victim’s clothing: “A 14-year-old boy was hit by a car and killed when the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing prevented him from seeing the driver as he dashed a Brooklyn street to try and catch a school bus, police sources said.”

Nicholas Soto was at least the third child age 14 and under killed by a NYC motorist in 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and at least the 13th such victim since January 2013.

This fatal crash occurred in the 76th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Justin C. Lenz, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 76th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the precinct, 191 Union Street. Call 718-834-3207 for information.

The City Council district where Nicholas Soto was killed is represented by Carlos Menchaca. To encourage Menchaca to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7372 or @Carlos4Council.

  • Clarke

    Vision Zero Change to the Status Quo. What a shame.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    The streets of Red Hook are mostly beautiful laid back places with few cars. But that also brings on a small percentage of driver’s with a Wild West/autoahn attitude. A few times a week – usually early mornings and weekends – you’d see people driving in excess of 40 mph on the most desolate of streets in a rush to get somewhere – and not expecting too many people or obstructions. I don’t know what happened here, but it happens enough. I wonder if there is a camera that caught what happened.

  • Ian Turner

    Pedestrians have the right of way at this intersection. Period. Even if they are rushing. Even if they are blind.

  • I wrote just before Christmas when Noshat Nahian was killed in Queens about how the adults who blame dead children in these circumstances are often behaving childishly themselves: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-brooklyn-heights-commuter-untimely.html This looks like further, tragic proof of my point.

    This was a 14-year-old running at 7am to get to a school bus in a rough neighborhood. The city needs more dedicated young men like that. Instead, the implicit assumption is that a 28-year-old driving fast in a BMW is a more worthwhile individual.

  • The Red Hook houses are bristling with security cameras. One would imagine one of them would have caught something.

    I would also imagine that, as further evidence emerges, the early, easy police narrative will disintegrate.

  • Fed Up

    *If* it emerges. Fighting the police to get crash reports and security cam footage takes time, energy, and money. If this kid lived in the Gowanus Houses, I can’t imagine his family has any of those in abundance.

    Justice shouldn’t be a luxury, but the NYPD makes it that.

  • R

    The NYPD blamed Allison Liao and her grandmother for the crash that killed little Allie. They said Allison broke away from her grandmother’s grip and that the driver couldn’t avoid her. This was repeated ad nauseum in the press.

    But the video shown at the Vision Zero hearing showed the exact opposite: the grandmother holding Allison’s hand, never letting go, and the driver plowing into them both at speed with what should have been a clear view of the crosswalk.

    In the real world, such a strong refutation of the initial NYPD report about the death of a child – a child! – would be cause for shame at every level of the department, from the commissioner on down. It might cause the media to not be so quick to believe “anonymous NYPD sources” in their reports.

    But this isn’t the real world. This is NYC, where our police and tabloid reporters do everything they can to excuse away senseless but totally avoidable deaths and injuries. Sadly, this leads to more deaths, because nothing is done to prevent the next one, and to a complete erosion of trust that’s on Commissioner Bratton and Mayor de Blasio to fix, if only they had the courage.

  • Eric McClure

    Seriously, f*** this bull****. The kid died because of his hoodie? Please. Is “he was wearing a hoodie” now the default get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who kills a teenager of color by any means?

    There are so many unanswered questions. First reports have Nicholas Soto crossing Hicks, while the driver was traveling on Lorraine. Subsequent reports have the kid crossing Lorraine. If the positioning of the car and bus in the Post photo is accurate as to their relative positions at the time of the collision, was the bus also traveling westbound, and was Nicholas coming from the south? Was the bus stopped? Was its stop sign deployed? If Nicholas was coming from the south across Lorraine, did he almost make it before being hit by the cars front right corner? Are the 76th Precinct and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson getting the black box data from the BMW? Given the presence of the NYCHA buildings there, you can bet there are cameras all over the place.

    This whole thing stinks, and I’m willing to bet the truth bears little resemblance to the Post and News versions.

    Finally, my deepest condolences to Nicholas Soto’s family and friends. What a tragedy.

  • R

    If only there was a kind of investigative unit of some sort of security force that could answer such questions. Or perhaps it might take some kind of writer working for a news-collecting entity to get to the bottom of this.

    Sadly, New York has neither of those things.

  • bolwerk

    Maybe you’d save some carpal-tunnel-inducing ink by informing us when the NYPD handles traffic casualties in a sensible way.

  • bolwerk

    That actually might be a lot of the problem. The uniformed police are primed to deal with street crime, which is relatively rare these days in comparison to their numbers. They probably barely know enough about traffic issues, or traffic law, to do much beyond write tickets. (And they get that wrong a lot.) Meanwhile, the investigative units of the NYPD are focused on drugs and violent crime, so few resources are put toward more common kinds of violence.

    The NYPD probably should be broken into a few agencies. To say the least, it’s a bit absurd that an organization so rife with abuse answers only to itself when officers are suspected of wrongdoing.

  • In the blogpost I mentioned below, I mentioned a series of cases where the NYPD’s victim-blaming has fallen apart in the face of the facts. You rightly mention Allison Liao. Initial reports of the circumstances of Samuel Cohen Eckstein’s death last year were also seriously misleading. There were despicable attempts to blame Amar Diarassouba’s death on variously him, his big brother, the missing crossing guard and generally anyone except the truck driver that drove over him. I saw someone ascribe Noshat Nohian’s death in Queens in December to “suicide by truck” when the driver was on a suspended license, turning negligently and generally doing just about everything wrong. As I say below, adults often seem to behave with childish irresponsibility when it comes to driving around – and thinking about – children on the roads. Until there’s a real culture change at the NYPD, the position really won’t improve.

  • Geck

    20 is plenty!

  • Is anyone planning a demonstration at the site of this latest killing? I’m angry enough that this one might stir me out of my customary torpor.

  • Clarke

    Traffic deaths per month? Because at this point, that’s not far off from the truth.

  • Charles

    I realize the police cannot blame anyone unless they have evidence. Therefore, we can only assume the NYPD source has carefully reconstructed the scene and calculated how fast the boy was “racing” and whether the hoodie obscured his vision.

    Now, if only there were some way to know how fast the car was going. Too bad there is no way to collect data from a machine. Oh well–case closed!

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    As far as I can tell, the only fact in this story is that a police source talked to the press before the investigation was complete. There is no reason the cops should be unofficially talking to reporters this soon after an incident unless it is to quickly carry an urgent message of public safety where the officer hasn’t been able to get proper authorization to speak to the press.

  • Bklynite

    Likewise.

  • So, to summarize, last Friday I had a run-in with someone who claimed to be an off-duty police officer who was blocking a bike lane in Williamsburg and said his needs were more important than my “faggot-assed bike”:http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/05/an-angry-off-duty-police-man-rainy.html Last night, I encountered police facilitating wholesale blocking of the new bike lane on Kent Ave: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wrightfamilyarchives/14143332998/ Then, this morning, near my home, a car kills a boy and the NYPD rush to exonerate a driver who looks like a really poor candidate for it. These are just experiences over ten days in a relatively small part of Brooklyn. Do we have enough evidence yet that the NYPD’s attitude to road safety remains fundamentally unreformed? Isn’t the real battle now to get something done about this?

  • bolwerk

    In my altercations with oinkers, I find it’s better to have 2-3 people with me when confronting them verbally. They stop acting tough real fast when outnumbered. And it’s not so much that they’re intimidated, but (1) there are witnesses and (2) they probably can’t beat up 3-4 people. Either way, they often start talking and reasoning rather than acting like goons.

    Practically speaking, your word doesn’t count against theirs by itself. They can trump up a charge in no time, and even if they get busted flat out lying over it a lot of your time is wasted and there are no repercussions for them.

  • Those are all good points. Unfortunately, the Friday before last, I was up against someone (who at first I thought might have made an innocent mistake in his parking) in the middle of a thunderstorm. Crowds of two to three people can be hard to drum under such circumstances.

  • Anyway, my problems such as they are remain minor compared with those of bereaved families.

  • scastro87

    How do you know he was driving fast?

  • gneiss

    Dude – the survival rate of a pedestrian getting hit by a car going 20 mph is 95%. The survival rate from a car going 40 mph is 15%. You do the math.

    It still boogles the mind that no one in law enforcement or the insurance industry has taken the time to work out from damage to a car how fast it was going. Given all the brain power that’s been devoted to figuring out “time of death” from body temperature, and blood spatter characteristics from different gun and bullet types, it seems like there could be easily be a series of studies with crash dummies to figure out the damage based on the speed of a car.

    Again, just shows how little interest law enforcement has in trying to keep us safe from traffic violence.

  • scastro87

    Isn’t the speed limit 30 and wasn’t the kid running? What’s the math on that? It’s a horrible tragedy and it might even be probable he was speeding, but everyone is speculating here. Sometimes accidents do happen and sometimes pedestrians take actions that contribute to their involvement in crashes.

  • SteveVaccaro

    How terrible. We need a signed Intro 238 as soon as possible so we can begin educating police, prosecutors, judges and drivers that reckless driving deserves serious consequences.

  • KillMoto

    What did the car’s black box say about the driver’s speed?

    It is the height of gross incompetence if the police do not read the black box in a collision where a person dies.

    Does the NYPD need to have the city council pass a law to make that a requirement, or will they pre-empt legislated micromanagement by getting ahead of the issue and making it internal policy?

  • gneiss

    scastro – the speed limit at a marked or unmarked crosswalk is zero. And have you heard of something called the “basic speed law”? The speed limit is only applicable if conditions warrant going that fast. Otherwise, it is the responsibility of the driver to SLOW DOWN. For crying out loud, the boy was running for a school bus! How can a driver not see a school bus and think, “gee, there might be kids around, I better slow down” rather than damn that 14-year old is a responsible adult – it’s his fault that he got run over.”

    Anyone who thinks that children have the same level of responsibility to keep themselves safe on our city streets really should have their licenses taken away from them.

  • KillMoto

    We don’t. But the car’s black box does.

    A child died, we as society should at least spend the 5 minutes it takes to collect that data. But we don’t.

  • scastro87

    You have to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks only when you know they’re there. It’s likely that the driver didn’t know the victim was there because he was running across the street. Cars can’t break on a dime and people aren’t robots.

    The same level of responsibility as who? Doesn’t everyone teach their kids to look both ways? At what age do you bear any responsibility for your actions when you cross the street? 15? 16? 17? 18?

    It’s a horrible tragedy and maybe the driver was 100% wrong, but I’m not sure why no one here will even give any thought to even the *possibility* that the victim may bear at least some responsibility for what happened.

  • KillMoto

    Accidents don’t happen.

    Drivers are required to proceed at a speed appropriate to the conditions. If you can’t stop in time to avoid hitting someone, it matters not what the posted speed limit is. What matters is, hitting someone means that by definition you were speeding.

  • KillMoto

    In San Francisco, advocates walked the street near a crash site and found a camera the (lazy?) police “overlooked”.

    I wonder if a concerned citizen near this neighborhood could walk the street and just look to see if there are cameras.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    I am not a constitutional lawyer so take this as a jumping off point in
    your thought process/analysis rather than some be all and end all. I am just a guy on the internet…

    The NYPD has determined that probable cause that a crime is committed is required to search the black box. There is a solid amount of precedent backing up that decision, but I wouldn’t say it is rock solid.

    It is a 4th amendment issue, making it my understanding that the city council can tinker with the “crime” part but not the “probable cause” part of the analysis.

  • gniess

    The car has a busted up windshield from killing a 14-year old. I’d say that’s pretty strong probable cause for issuing a search warrant for the black box to determine what speed his car was traveling at the moment of impact.

  • qrt145

    You are right that people on this site tend to blame the driver even before there’s sufficient evidence. But I think that’s understandable because otherwise who’s going to stand for the victim when the police, the media, the prosecutors, and the judges do not? How is there going to be any evidence to figure out what really happened when the police routinely fail to investigate at all, all while proclaiming the innocence of the driver to the media?

  • I think that might happen if the NYPD weren’t so quick to exonerate the driver. Most of what you read here is people offering alternate scenarios for how the driver might be at fault. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

    If the NYPD showed some restraint and said, “The investigation is ongoing,” and if our tabloids weren’t so willing to parrot what the police say, perhaps it might not appear as if advocates were so quick to blame the driver each and every time. That’s not what’s happening. We’re just disturbed by the speed with which our police say, “No criminality suspected.”

  • scastro87

    Of course accidents happen and of course you can not be speeding and a pedestrian can enter into your lane without time to slow down. Are you saying that even in the extreme case of a pedestrian walking into a highway, the drivers should be able to slow down?

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    (this is not my personal opinion on what policy should be, it is just my understanding of the constitutional law)

    The car was obviously in a collision, which isn’t itself a crime. NYPD would need probable cause of e.g. vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment, etc. Something that is a misdemeanor or felony.

    Those require additional factors like if an eyewitness said “He was weaving in and out of lanes and speeding” then that could give probable cause. Long skid marks are another alternative which when combined with the death to the kid would give probable cause of vehicular manslaughter.

  • STOP SPEEDING ASSHOLES

    PLEASE PUBLISH THE DRIVER’S NAME. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE TO PUBLIC OPINION.

  • scastro87

    That’s fair, I just don’t think you need to go all the way to assuming 100% guilt by the driver to be an advocate and I think that approach can turn some people away. For example, I drive frequently, but also take the subway/bus everyday to commute and try to be realistic about both sides. I have slowed down driving on side streets partly because of the advocacy but I also resent transit advocates who seem to hate cars and seem to want to eliminate them. Those type of people seem to be unfortunately the most vocal and turn away people like me that may be otherwise sympathetic

  • STOP SPEEDING ASSHOLES

    fuck the speed limit. drive according to conditions. there was a big assed yellow school bus in the area. DO THE MATH ON THAT.

  • gneiss

    Umm – this wasn’t just a run of the mill traffic collision with another car where you would expect there to be some damage to both vehicles. It was a collision with a pedestrian, who then died. The fact that the windshield and part of the car was busted suggest that there was enough force that a human body damaged metal and steel. That’s a lot more than simply running over someone.

  • ocschwar

    Because the kid’s dead.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    The driver clearly killed the kid, but what specific crime do the police have probable cause to suspect him of and why. Without that, there is no legal way to search.

  • ocschwar

    Look, asshole. I hit a kid once. He walked away. Because I was driving slower and was probably going 5 MPH when my car made contact with him.

    I don’t know what the speed limit was. It doesn’t matter. You have a duty to limit your speed to match the needed response time. If you need to stop on a dime because of local conditions, you should be stopped already, with the hazards on.

  • Mark Walker

    Another factor that suggests speeding is the report that “the impact flung the boy up in the air and over a fence.” So, not just run over, but flung. Add that to the physical condition of the car and the conclusion is inescapable: Whatever the victim may have done or not done, the driver was clearly speeding.

  • gneiss

    Violating Pedestrian right of way. Violation of basic speed law. Violation of Speed Limit. How many crimes does it take? The NYPD have been frisking people for years on the flimsiest of evidence, and yet, even after someone is killed by a car we can’t search it? Please – give me a break.

  • Andrew

    You have to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks only when you know they’re there.

    Source?

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    I have seen no evidence that this driver violated the speed limit or the pedestrian right of way. It may exist but it surely isn’t in the news articles.

    Under stop and frisk, it is my understanding that if the stopped person had a USB drive the cops couldn’t search it for evidence of a crime. I see that as more similar as the black box search requires a more invasive and time consuming search. Stop and frisk was required to be quick.

  • AnoNYC

    New Jersey plates: tells it all.

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