NYPD: Still Defending Hit-and-Run Drivers to the Press [Updated]

A video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver suspected of killing him approaches from behind. Image: WNBC
Surveillance video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver who killed him approaches from behind. NYPD told the press the driver may not have known he hit Ma because his truck was big and the crash happened too fast. Image: WNBC

Update: As of late Wednesday afternoon police have a suspect in custody and charges are pending, according to NYPD.

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Sheepshead Bay yesterday, and NYPD made excuses for the driver to the media.

Can Reng Ma, 54, was riding west on Avenue U near E. 9th Street at around 5 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a box truck traveling in the same direction, according to the NYPD public information office and published reports. The driver did not stop.

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC
Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Police told AMNY the truck was a 2016 Freightliner with Indiana plates, and the Post reported that it was a Ryder rental. The driver remained at large this afternoon, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Ma, who came to the U.S. from China seven years ago, was on his way home from work when he was hit, according to WNBC, which posted video of the victim riding on the street as a large Ryder truck overtakes him. His death was the first reported cyclist fatality of 2016.

Locals told WNBC truck traffic poses a significant danger on this segment of Avenue U, where drivers double-park to unload. “Some days it is unbelievable what goes on over here,” one man said.

In New York City, most drivers who harm people and leave the scene are never charged with a crime. Provided police make an arrest, to win a hit-and-run conviction, state law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know he hit someone and caused injury — a surprisingly high burden. Many cases are dropped, or are not pursued at all, once a driver claims he “didn’t see” the victim. Even the city’s recently adopted hit-and-run civil penalties depend on the drivers’ word.

Though establishing a hit-and-run driver’s knowledge that a collision occurred is crucial to seeing justice done for the victim, NYPD sources, as they have in the past, offered the person who killed Can Reng Ma a preemptive defense.

From the Daily News:

Investigators are still looking into whether the truck’s driver even realized the man had been struck, cop sources said.

“Police say it’s quite possible the truck driver they’re looking for has no idea that someone was hit because his truck is so large and the accident happened so quickly,” said WABC reporter Dray Clark.

“Police were investigating whether or not the truck driver’s actions were criminal,” the Post reported.

Albany’s refusal to reform weak state laws is probably the biggest obstacle to bringing hit-and-run killers to justice. NYPD has also expressed indifference to improving its abysmal hit-and-run clearance rate. Promoting the “invisible victim” defense looks like another sign that the department does not take NYC’s hit-and-run epidemic as seriously as it should.

  • I feel like a claim that “you didn’t see” a person who you hit anywhere on the front of your vehicle, should lead to an immediate license suspension on the basis that you cannot see well enough to safely drive a car.

  • Brad Aaron

    A few points that didn’t make it into the piece:

    • The act of killing a person with a vehicle should not be downgraded because the driver left the scene. It’s the taking of a life that matters.

    • Unclear if it would have made a difference, but if the truck was registered out of state it would be exempt from laws requiring crossover mirrors.

    • If you’re licensed to drive a passenger car, you can walk onto a rental truck lot and leave in an enormous truck, free to drive legally on the people-packed streets of NYC. I have done it several times myself.

  • Jules1

    Very true, especially on the last point.

  • Joe R.

    Or it could indicate an unsafe vehicle design. This is especially true of large trucks. Cabovers could easily solve that problem but for some reason we seem averse to them in this country.

  • Then these vehicles should be immediately removed from service. This is what we do with airplanes which have a proven fault in their design.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I did it once and was scared out of my mind. And the truck wasn’t that big.

    I certainly don’t want to be seen as blaming the victim, but cyclists should avoid very active commercial streets with lots of double parking and deliveries when possible.

    So I checked to see if there was a mapped and signed bike route on Avenue T or V. There is a dotted lined (planned) map on Avenue T, and another on Y. I wonder what the Community Board view of these will be.

    You still have to use U to get past Marine Park on the way to the Rockaways.

  • BBnet3000

    • The act of killing a person with a vehicle should not be downgraded because the driver left the scene

    Indeed, it should be upgraded. If you don’t stick around and call 911 you are increasing their chances of death.

  • Andres Dee

    As they say, everything before the “but” is…

  • Joe Enoch

    Everyone is talking the outrageous injustice demonstrated in “Making a Murderer” and while what happened to Steven Avery is insane, this poor guy and his loved ones don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at any kind of justice.

    The driver PROBABLY saw the bicyclist or at least should have, and he/she DEFINITELY heard and felt the tires of his/her truck run over Mr. Ma. But there will be no national call to justice, no petitions and certainly no attempt by authorities or a civil jury to make things right.

    Someone could make a 10-part documentary about a driver who runs over and kills an innocent man on his way home from work — follow the case to its bitter, fruitless end — and most U.S. citizens would probably come to the conclusion that it was an “accident” that could have been avoided if Ma wouldn’t have chosen to ride a silly bicycle on a busy road.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    The lack of cabovers in America is, quite literally, the result of a conspiracy of macho asshole truck drivers.

  • Brad Aaron

    I have heard that. Unreal.

    Then again so are those grille covers that look like an open set of jaws with fangs.

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