Off-Duty NYPD Officer Seriously Injures Child in Jackson Heights Crosswalk

The crosswalk where Chunli Mendoza, age 5, and her mother were injured by an off-duty NYPD officer on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Miller
The crosswalk where Chunli Mendoza, age 5, and her mother were injured by an off-duty NYPD officer on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Miller

Just after 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 5-year-old Chunli Mendoza was walking to P.S. 228 with her mother. They were midway across Northern Boulevard at 92nd Street, just a block away from the school, when they were struck by an off-duty NYPD officer. Chunli was seriously injured and remains at Elmhurst Hospital after undergoing surgery on her leg. Her mother, hospitalized for a foot fracture, was released on Thursday.

NYPD says the mother and daughter were struck by an off-duty officer driving a white pickup truck. The driver has not been charged and no summonses were issued. “We hope the girl makes a full recovery,” an anonymous police official told DNAinfo. “Unfortunately it was a tragic traffic accident.”

Witnesses offered their version of events to reporters yesterday at a rally held by Make Queens Safer at the intersection.

Maria Jose Penaherrera, 37, has a daughter in the first grade at PS 228. She was driving to school that morning and was three cars back from the intersection when the crash occurred. While she did not see a white pickup truck, she does remember a black sedan making a U-turn in the intersection before traffic inched forward and she could see a girl down in the street.

“I knew it was a girl from PS 228 because of the uniform,” she said.

A family friend who works nearby and wished to remain anonymous ran to the scene minutes after the crash happened and remembers seeing both a black sedan and the white pickup in the middle of the street after the crash. “Mommy was hysterical, screaming for help. She was screaming, ‘My daughter, my daughter, my daughter,'” she said.

Last week, Community Board 3 voted to support a plan for nine additional concrete pedestrian refuge islands on Northern Boulevard, but 92nd Street was not included in the proposal. The intersection with 93rd Street, one block to the east, already has a concrete island.

Currently, there is a crossing guard stationed two blocks east of where Mendoza was struck, at Junction Boulevard, where 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa was killed by a drunk driver last October. In the wake of this week’s crash, area residents and Make Queens Safer are asking for more crossing guards, especially at the intersection of 93rd Street and Northern Boulevard, adjacent to PS 228 and one block east of where Mendoza was struck.

While they are pleading for more crossing guards from the precinct, residents also say police officers in the area often drive recklessly and park on the sidewalk. “Definitely it’s been a concern,” the family friend said. “Police officers, they should be the ones guarding us all the time.”

“We do not want to get into a fight with the precinct, because we need crossing guards. And these guys have been very supportive with the initiative of Make Queens Safer,” Penaherrera said. “Nobody wants to hit a girl. I’m sure this guy is mortified, the person who did this.”

  • Real New Yorker

    Send the NYPD to Syria and Iraq. If they’re going to act like an outside occupation force and treat local communities like an enemy, they may as well do that over there.

  • chelsea rogers.

    “I’m sure this guy is mortified, the person who did this.” — Mortified maybe, but probably feeling pretty excellent that there has been no charge, no summons, and hey, he’s still employed by the NYPD — because it was an “accident” that he was driving like an asshole through a crosswalk when pedestrians had the light. This is sick.

  • Nick Malinowski

    If it had been a cab driver, he would have lost his drivers license, but it’s NYPD so there is no consequence

  • Larry Littlefield

    No, I’m sure the person does feel bad. Unfortunately, most don’t think about what could happen until it does.

    If the government required the radio to play a public service announcement each time the car started up, perhaps featuring first person accounts of how people felt after killing or maiming someone and how those maimed and the family of those killed feel, I’d be this sort of thing would go down.

    The “joy of driving” would probably go down as well, however.

  • ddartley

    Interesting, I have long thought that statements from vehicular violence *perps* might be really helpful in safe driving PSAs. Obviously we’ve had victims & kin in such campaigns but I’ve always thought that perps, especially right at the time of the crash when possible, would be very useful.

  • lop

    Might help dispel the rumor that illegal immigrants and unlicensed drivers are responsible for street violence or at least most of it (only 8% of ped deaths in NYC)

    It’s so much easier to blame it on someone else, some other group, and pretend you aren’t part of the problem.

  • Kevin Love

    Here’s one where the (fictional) perps have their say. Being Dutch, blame is laid squarely where it belongs. No victim blaming here! And it is rather funny…

    http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/i-was-only-speeding-slightly/

  • I’ve mentioned before on here the very unpleasant run-in I had five weeks ago with an (apparent) off-duty NYPD officer who was blocking a bike lane and was openly contemptuous of me and my “faggot-assed bike”: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/05/an-angry-off-duty-police-man-rainy.html I’m obviously fortunate that I suffered no real harm in my incident, unlike the poor Mendoza family, who should now be enjoying the school summer vacation instead of undergoing medical treatment. But, given my experience (and the experiences others have related to me since), I’m not at all surprised to learn of off-duty police officers causing tragic crashes like this.

  • Sidewalk parking should not be tolerated at all. It’s a sign of entitlement and needs to be eliminated from NYC forever. Police precincts need to set an example and end this behavior for good.

    It boggles the mind that Commissioner Bratton, who subscribes heavily to the broken windows theory of crime prevention, doesn’t see the connection between violating pedestrian space in his manner and other forms of dangerous driving. Some precincts are making progress on this issue, but not enough.

  • When I attended a Taxi and Limousine Commission hearing recently, an attorney told me judges there didn’t like using the power to suspend licenses: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/06/an-idle-hour-worried-taxi-drivers-and.html I think there are plenty of cab drivers out there who’ve killed and seriously injured people and are still being allowed to drive. Not that either they or cops who drive the way this driver seems to have done should be allowed to drive in my view.

  • I imagine, sadly, he could well be making some pretty compelling excuses to himself about how he couldn’t have done any more to avoid it and so on. Plenty of drivers seem to be in denial about their responsibilities.

  • WaKeU{Pcall

    Over 90 human beings have been killed by street violence in this city since the January 1st, 2014… You wanna nitpick Cop incidents, there is 35,000 NYPD members in this city… Do you think none of them will go without incident (traffic, road rage, disputes?) No one is perfect. Its a job most of us would not take and then most of us criticize the way its being done. You wanna change something, take the test, and make a difference.. until then, keep your mouth shut!

  • SteveVaccaro

    As of August 22, this type of conduct will be a crime (a misdemeanor) under newly-enacted New York City Administrative Code Section 19-190.

  • Joe R.

    Sidewalk parking is particularly onerous when it’s done even in places where the police have their own parking lot. The local 107th precinct had patrol cars backed in blocking half the sidewalk the other day. Just for kicks I checked to see if their parking lot was full. It was more than half empty. This is really just a case of pure laziness. You have a nice parking lot provided by NYC you should use it. If the police continue to park on the sidewalks their parking lot should be taken away from them and converted to low-income housing. That would actually be a better use of that land anyway.

  • Guest

    I will speak up when I see ANYBODY break the law.

    When the NYPD breaks the law systematically (yes, that’s what’s going on), we all have an obligation as citizens to stand up and demand reform.

    Saying that blatant corruption that results in the deaths of innocent people is ok because they have a hard job is ridiculous.

  • Kevin Love

    For no other serious crime of violence do we hear all that much sympathy for the feelings of the criminal. How many times have I heard:

    “The poor rapist. For the rest of his life he is going to have to live with the memory of the screaming of the person he violently raped. I am sure he feels bad about that.”

    Zero. That’s how many times I’ve heard someone say that.

  • KillMoto

    A couple of friends with these babies, and that cars-on-the-sidewalk problem becomes a cars-in-the-street problem!

    http://www.harborfreight.com/1250-lb-capacity-mechanical-wheel-dolly-67287.html

  • KillMoto

    “Do you think none of them will go without incident (traffic, road rage, disputes?)”

    No, I don’t.

    Do I think those that cause incidents will go without investigation, or trial, or accountability?

    Yes. My “yes” is justified by what I’ve seen, and that’s a damn shame.

    Police should be the best drivers out there, because in the blink of an eye they might be summoned to rev the engine and respond to a call. Police incapable of driving **perfectly** can become beat cops, bicycle cops, mounted police, go into forensics as a specialty, manage evidence lockers, become firearms instructors, or retire. They don’t belong driving on the streets.

    And yes, off-duty police should be held to the same high standard. Same principle as police carrying firearms while off duty in my book.

  • Rabi

    Since we’re clearly not going to get the NYPD to crack down on anonymous statements, how about we boycott news outlets who use them? I expect better from DNAinfo.

  • neroden

    Again, it seems that being an NYPD officer gets people a license to violate the law without being prosecuted. This has to stop.

  • neroden

    Gah, actually I’ve read statements like that from extreme misogynists.

  • nycbikecommuter

    Unless you’re a cop…

  • Alex

    I think a good comparison would be the tragic instances of children dying after being left in hot cars. People are outraged and want harsh punishments levied on the parents responsible, and rightfully so. But when you get down to it, it’s likely not much different from someone running down a child with a vehicle. Both are unintentional. Both are the result of a careless action. The person responsible didn’t think they were doing something that would end up being deadly in both scenarios. And after the fact the are both left feeling completely awful about what happened. And yet, in one situation the person is almost always let off the hook while in the other they are punished severely even though the result was the same: a dead child.

  • Andrew

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