Victoria Nicodemus, 14th Person Killed by Curb-Jumping NYC Driver in 2015

The blue dot is the approximate location of the crash that killed Victoria Nicodemus. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Victoria Nicodemus photo via Daily News. Map image: DOT Vision Zero View
The blue dot is the approximate location where a driver fatally struck Victoria Nicodemus on a sidewalk in Fort Greene. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Map: DOT Vision Zero View

An alleged unlicensed driver who witnesses say was traveling at a high rate of speed struck and killed a woman on a sidewalk in Fort Greene yesterday.

Marlon Sewell, 39, drove a Chevrolet SUV over the curb at 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue, at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, striking 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, her 37-year-old boyfriend, and a 75-year-old man, according to reports.

Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. Witnesses said Sewell drove onto the sidewalk because he was driving too fast to stop for a B25 bus in front of him.

From the Daily News:

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” said witness Anthony Singh, 22, who works on the corner. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

“She lost a lot of blood,” he said. “Her body was really pale. They were pumping her chest while they took her away on the gurney.”

“This place was a madhouse,” said Byron Logan, 72, who was buying lottery tickets when the accident happened. “I’ve never seen so many people screaming.”

Nicodemus, an art curator who lived in Brooklyn Heights, died at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend and the third victim were hospitalized.

NYPD charged Sewell with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance. Aggravated unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, is the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone. Sewell was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims.

Image: WPIX
Image: WPIX

“She was an incredible young woman,” Peter Miller, Nicodemus’s brother, told the Daily News. “She was the light of our lives. Honestly one of the most beautiful souls.”

The crash occurred in the 88th Precinct, where officers issue an average of just 10 speeding tickets a month. Two years ago a curb-jumping SUV driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather as he stood with his mother and brother at the corner of DeKalb and Clermont avenues, also in the 88th Precinct.

The driver who killed Lucian was charged with assault and homicide and was sentenced to five years probation and a five-year license revocation.

Motorists have killed at least 14 people on sidewalks and inside buildings in 2015, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. There were five such fatalities reported by Streetsblog and other outlets in 2014.

From a statement released by Transportation Alternatives this morning:

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson must prosecute this case to full extent of the law and send a strong message that reckless driving will not be tolerated. Given that driver Marlon Sewell has been charged with operating his car without a license, we also call on state lawmakers to take action on State Senator Michael Gianaris’ legislation to toughen penalties for motorists who kill while driving without a valid license.

Though the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad is still at work on the case, eyewitness accounts suggest the SUV driver was speeding. The NYPD must continue to step up speed enforcement consistently across all precincts. In addition, New York City must be able to deploy more automated speed enforcement cameras than the 140 currently allowed under state law, and those devices should be able to be operational outside school zones, and at all times of the day or night.

  • c2check

    The same precinct where police (and a huge number of PERSONAL) vehicles are parked all over the sidewalks.
    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.6901627,-73.9602799,3a,75y,215.03h,59.72t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sPX6d3fdQd-7cWWJND-UViw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

  • c2check

    Delightful.

  • r

    It is completely shameful that had this driver been licensed and insured, he would have been sent home by the 88th or CIS. What’s the lesson here, Commissioner Bratton? If you kill someone, at least make sure you’re licensed?

  • This is an important point and ought to be addressed by elected officials and NYPD brass. Imagine if the cops simply helped themselves to bottles of water or snacks from a local bodega. Would anyone trust them to take robberies seriously? And yet we somehow expect that the cops will take traffic violence seriously when they themselves can’t be bothered to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    were the victims wearing helmets ?

  • com63

    There is video of this crash. They showed it on the news on NBC last night. It doesn’t look like swerving at all, it looks like the driver just was distracted and drove right onto the sidewalk. Ridiculous this doesn’t result in an immediate murder charge.

  • djx

    Very well said.

  • JudenChino

    The driver, who was in the car with a woman who appeared to be sleeping, remained on the scene after the crash.

    “He was crying. Lifting up his shirt. Wrapping his hands around his head,” said witness Andy Timey, 38. “He asked me where he was. I told him . But I don’t think he heard me. He seemed real weak. In a daze.”

    You would never, ever, see such sympathetic details for any other type of unintentional but reckless killing. Only when it’s someone in a fucking car (even an unlicensed operator!).

    You think this guy whose dogs mauled a 4 year old to death, wasn’t also devastated and messed up in the head? http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/12/02/child-4-mauled-4-pit-bulls-detroits-west-side/76672570/

    Would a newspaper ever think to include the sorrow of the dog owner whose pit bulls got away from him to maul a 4 year in their reporting? Hell fucking no. But get mowed down while walking on the sidewalk in densely populated Fort Greene — it’s “wow, what a tragic accident,” and then ticket the driver for driving without a license.

  • ahwr

    >Imagine if the cops simply helped themselves to bottles of water or snacks from a local bodega.

    They crack down on stuff like that.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/nyregion/at-chipotle-an-unofficial-and-prohibited-discount-for-officers.html

  • Simon Phearson

    That also struck me as incredibly tone-deaf. I’m sure the dead woman’s family feels just horribly for him.

  • armyvet00

    I imagine he thinks he’ll be going to jail for murdering someone, but little does he know how lax the laws are for this….

  • BBnet3000

    #visionzero

  • Harsher prosecution and penalties in cases like this will make people feel better but will likely have little impact on reducing deaths. Enforcement of speed limits and other driving laws are the most immediate solution though this will likely only be maybe 30% effective. How to get NYPD to do their job is beyond me though.

    Long term however the streets need to be re-designed so that speeding and reckless driving are difficult regardless of the level of impotence of the NYPD.

  • EcoAdvocate

    In addition to designing streets for safer speeds—20mph would be great in pedestrian areas! NYS dips into traffic ticket cash and robs municipalities of so much of those funds that it COSTS police money to run enforcement–they can’t break even. I understand we don’t want the bar sliding all the way to the municipal side to encourage incessant police traffic enforcement, but we are a LONG WAY from that. Talk to your NYS Legislators, demand MORE ENFORCEMENT through better fund sharing via traffic ticket revenue!

  • EcoAdvocate

    Thank you JudenChino. LANGUAGE MATTERS. We need to contact every media outlet with every story and demand they STOP using the word ACCIDENT! A kid didn’t wet his pants, a man was recklessly endangering the lives of all around him, and murdered a young woman with his intentionally fast moving motor vehicle. He was not speeding by “accident”. The word is CRASH, or COLLISION. Not very often is a crash “on purpose”.

  • Joe R.

    The driver made a bunch of poor choices. First he decided to drive without a license. He also decided to drive an uninsured vehicle. Then he decided to drive at a speed excessive for the conditions. The worst choice however was the one he made when he realized he was driving too fast to stop for the bus in front of him. The sane choice would have been to hit the bus. Instead, he choose the self-serving choice of driving up on the sidewalk to avoid it. This speaks volumes on how poorly we train drivers. When faced with a choice of a soft living target or a hard one, the driver should invariably opt for the hard one, even at the cost of their lives, and the lives of their passengers. When you drive or ride in a motor vehicle, you’re inherently assuming the risk involved. People on the sidewalks are not. People crossing streets are not. People riding bikes are not.

    Something like this isn’t an accident. It’s intentional homicide resulting from a string of poor choices. In a sane world the driver would be facing execution as a result. At the very least we should take away his vehicle, give him a lifetime ban on driving, and have him forfeit all future wages and assets to the victim’s next of kin.

    On another note, an f-ing monstrosity like that vehicle shouldn’t even be allowed on city streets. NYC should seize it and promptly crush it. Had the driver been behind the wheel of a vehicle more suited for an urban area (i.e. well under 1,000 pounds, less than 10 feet long, battery-powered) the victim might at least have had a chance.

  • Joe R.

    I totally agree about redesigning the streets to make speeding or reckless driving virtually impossible. At the same time we should ban huge vehicles like that from urban areas. The only ones who might be allowed such vehicles would be those who prove they need them for their livelihood. When that’s the case, they would need to go through additional driver training. Same thing with anyone driving trucks. The streets are only partially responsible for the carnage. The vehicles the American public chooses to buy are also responsible. Perhaps a class-action lawsuit by NYC against car companies would be in order here. Car companies continue to make and sell vehicles they know are needlessly dangerous to vulnerable users. The bumpers and grill of huge vehicles like that are exactly the right height to inflict maximum damage on pedestrians. If the outcome of such a lawsuit is a simple cease-and-desist order, where the automakers agree to no longer sell trucks or SUVs to the general public, that would be a good outcome. Of course, you would still have the existing used ones. Some system of special licensing could be used to incentivize their owners to get rid of them, along with much higher registration fees and insurance surcharges.

  • JoshNY

    The decision you mention, that a driver should opt for a collision with a hard target rather than a soft one, has come up in coverage of self-driving cars, if I’m not mistaken, along the lines that cars should be programmed to do as you suggest, and that people would be reluctant to choose, for themselves, a car that would choose to ram the bus.

    Edit: of course, a self-driving car operating in an urban environment wouldn’t be going so fast as to yield a fatal crash in the first place.

  • Joe R.

    Choosing a hard target over a soft one would be a very unusual circumstance for a self-driven car, even in an urban environment. As you said, unlike a human-driven car, a self-driven one would be operated in such a manner as to be able to react to just about every scenario without having a collision. For what it’s worth, a few times I had animals run out in front of me while cycling. Fortunately, I was able to avoid all of them by changing direction and/or speed. However, given a choice, I would have rammed a parked car instead of hitting an animal. Note that such a decision has far more serious consequences for a cyclist than for someone in a motor vehicle. I think had the driver chosen to ram the bus, he would have come out of it with non-disabling injuries. The same can’t be said of the people he hit.