NYPD: Teacher Killed by Cop in Crosswalk “Assumed Risk” by Crossing Street


NYPD and the city Law Department are fighting a lawsuit filed by the family of a Brooklyn man who was killed in a crosswalk by an on-duty officer, on the grounds that the victim behaved recklessly by crossing the street.

Felix Coss was crossing Broadway at Hooper Street in Williamsburg, in a crosswalk with the signal, on the afternoon of July 6, 2013, when Officer Paula Medrano of the 90th Precinct struck him with a marked police van while turning left. Coss, a 61-year-old veteran Spanish teacher, suffered severe head injuries and died that night at Bellevue Hospital.

Felix Coss. Photo via DNAinfo

Video of the crash shows Medrano stopped at the Hooper Street crosswalk on the north side of the intersection as Coss, approaching from the south, stops for the signal. When the light changes, Coss enters the Broadway crosswalk, still facing Medrano, as Medrano accelerates into the intersection and turns left, driving directly into Coss and knocking him to the asphalt.

The NYPD crash report says Medrano “had the green light,” but does not indicate Coss was crossing with the walk signal and had the right of way.

Following up on a witness statement that Medrano was on her cell phone at the time of the crash, the Internal Affairs Bureau subpoenaed her phone records, according to the Daily NewsBut just two days after Coss was killed the Post reported that Medrano probably wouldn’t be summonsed or charged by NYPD. Though Coss “had the pedestrian signal,” the Post reported, “No criminality and no traffic-law violations are suspected.”

“It was a tragic, unfortunate accident,” an anonymous NYPD source said.

NYPD denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to the crash.

Coss was survived by two brothers, who filed a suit against the city, NYPD, and Medrano, claiming Medrano was driving recklessly, using a cell phone, and failed to yield. But the city’s Law Department claims Coss was responsible for the collision.

The city’s response to the suit says Coss “knew or should have known in the exercise of due/reasonable care of the risks and dangers incident to engaging in the activity alleged.”

From the city’s court filing:

Plantiff(s) voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed. Plaintiff(s) failed to use all required, proper, appropriate and reasonable safety devices and/or equipment and failed to take all proper, appropriate and reasonable steps to assure his/her/their safety … Plaintiff(s)’ implied assumption of risk caused or contributed, in whole or in part [sic] to his/her/their injuries.

The Coss family’s attorney, Andrew Levine, says NYPD and the city have resisted providing materials relevant to the case, including witness statements, which the city has failed to surrender despite two court orders. “We believe those statements are going to be very powerful evidence about the conscious pain and suffering that Felix Coss went through,” Levine told Streetsblog. “It feels as though they really put up a stone wall to try and prevent any flow of information whatsoever.”

NYPD has a history of mistreating victims of police-involved traffic crashes. The department keeps a tight lid on information related to crashes that involve police personnel, going so far as to withhold data from other city agencies, a policy that has not changed since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2014.

Attorneys for the Coss family and the city are next scheduled to be in court in April.

“They have things in here — that he should have known, that he was engaging in a dangerous activity,” said Levine. “He’s a pedestrian walking across the street with the walk signal.”

  • Douglas Arnold

    The first issue is this happen prior to the new Right of way law (which in it’s self is assine, can you fucking imagine a bunch of law makers discussing a new law to make it a crime to run down pedestrians in the crosswalk when they already have the right of way?) The second is talking on the cell phone seems only to against the law for citizens. This whole thing is absurd!

  • Timothy53

    I want what they’re smoking.

  • Timothy53

    OK, since the street from which the cop is turn left to mow down the innocent man legally crossing the street was a one way street, there would have been no arrow.

    Nor would there have been any oncoming traffic to shield the killer’s line of sight of her victim.

  • Timothy53

    So, let me see if I got this right.

    If someone doing something legally and safely that may carry with it some reasonable expectation risk or danger of injury or death and they are injured or killed, are ultimately to blame for their own death or injury,then I guess …

    … that when a cop is killed or injured by a suspect, they have no recourse because they are doing a dangerous job? And the suspect cannot be charged with killing or injuring a police officer during the execution of a crime?

  • Paul

    The officer was on the phone according to the article you just read.

  • Sean

    And are responsible for their screw ups, yes?

  • Andrew

    For example:
    Accident – the man crossing the street walked across but was in the officers blind spot where the windshield and drivers door meet.

    Negligence – officer is distracted while by being on the phone, uses no signal to inform anyone they are turning, isn’t aware of surroundings, and is impatient (at one point you see the officer remove their foot from the break while sitting at the light).

    I disagree with your characterization. Both of these are examples of negligence. If you assume that your blind spot isn’t obscuring a person – and act on that assumption – you are driving negligently. For that matter, the pedestrian wasn’t standing still – a driver who doesn’t actively watch for pedestrians crossing the street (especially in a marked crosswalk with the pedestrian signal in their favor) is driving negligently.

    The good news is that negligent drivers luck out and don’t actually kill people the vast majority of the time. The bad news is that repeated good luck tends to convince a lot of negligent drivers that they’re not doing anything wrong and that they’re not relying on luck. Which is why enforcement of driving laws is important even when nobody ends up dead. Less than one ticket per day for failure to yield to pedestrians is not a meaningful level of enforcement. It’s no wonder that Officer Paula Medrano doesn’t take yielding to pedestrians seriously.

  • Andrew

    Who said anything about regular behavior? I can’t say for sure how Paula Medrano typically drives (although I have my suspicions), but on this particular occasion she failed to watch for pedestrians while turning. That’s negligence.

  • Andrew

    Here’s what a green light signifies by New York City law: “Vehicular traffic facing such signals may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits any such movement. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.”

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf#page=19

    Paula Medrano quite obviously failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian lawfully within a crosswalk adjacent to the intersection.

  • Andrew

    Both. Like at the overwhelming majority of signalized intersections in New York City, the two come on at the same time (although many have been modified recently to have the pedestrian signal come on a few seconds earlier, specifically to give pedestrians a head start).

  • Andrew

    Coss was crossing with the WALK signal. Watch the video, read the newspaper articles, or simply familiarize yourself with hoe New York City intersections work.

  • Andrew

    Those kind of pedestrians deserve to get hit if they’re not paying attention to traffic with the tight of way.

    Really? Do you also believe that motorists who break traffic laws (and who thereby put other people’s lives at risk) should be killed for their infractions, or is it only pedestrians who should be killed?

    (Not that this pedestrian broke any traffic laws – he crossed the street exactly when he was supposed to cross, and turning motorists were required to yield to him.)

  • Andrew

    For those unfamiliar with Rosen and his stance on pedestrian safety, read this piece (and the comments) on why he believes we worry too much about pedestrian safety and instead should worry about such issues as lightning strikes: http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2015/08/the-commute-why-the-emphasis-on-pedestrians-fatalities/

    (To their credit, Sheepshead Bites fired him shortly thereafter.)

  • Andrew

    Switch it to a cop in the crosswalk and Joe Citizen behind the wheel and it’s a charge vehicular manslaughter.

    In New York? Unlikely.

  • Andrew

    It seems to me that Paula Medrano’s driving style was an unwarranted invasion of Felix Coss’s personal privacy.

  • Andrew

    Adding to that, she initially stopped past the stop line and rolled forward further before the light changed. No, that alone might not be a huge deal, but it’s a sign of carelessness. Somehow I’ve never had difficulty stopping behind the stop line and staying there until the light turned green – but, then again, I’ve never had difficulty yielding to pedestrians who are legally crossing with the light.

    Just look at the parking around the 90th Precinct. Is this an indication of a culture that gives a damn about pedestrian safety?

    The 90th Precinct issues less than one ticket per day for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Is this an indication of a culture that gives a damn about pedestrian safety?

  • Andrew

    Yes, like at the overwhelming majority of signalized intersections in New York City, the pedestrian signal comes on at the same time as (or shortly before) the parallel green light comes on.

    The vast majority of exceptions are at locations with protected turn signals, which this intersection clearly does not have.

  • Andrew

    I’m happy to think outside the box, but I’m not going to think outside the brain. What exactly did you want me to think?

  • Andrew

    I hate to say it, but if that’s what you were taught, then, yes, you were taught bullshit.

    Motorists are always required to exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians, but that doesn’t mean that pedestrians always have the right of way. A motorist who collides with a pedestrian hasn’t necessarily violated this – this is merely a requirement to be cautious, and even the most cautious among us may have a rare mishap.

    Only in specific circumstances (and this was one of them) are motorists explicitly required to yield the right of way to pedestrians – i.e., pedestrians have the right of way – but in those circumstances the motorist absolutely must permit the pedestrian to go first. A motorist who collides with a pedestrian has undoubtedly not yielded to that pedestrian. That the motorist didn’t see the pedestrian isn’t a defense – she should have actively been looking for the possible pedestrian to whom she was obligated to yield. (Note that failure to yield doesn’t require a collision – if a pedestrian has to stop or divert to avoid being struck by a car, the driver didn’t yield.)

    If the pedestrian had stepped into the crosswalk against the light, for instance, or had crossed mid-block, the motorist wouldn’t have been required to yield, but she still would have been required to exercise due care. If she had struck him in such a situation, she might or might not have been partly to blame – that would depend on the details of the case. But in fact he stepped into the crosswalk with the light, and as such she was absolutely required to yield to him.

    I realize that I probably sound overly pedantic, but I think it’s an important distinction. Claiming that pedestrians always have the right of way drastically cheapens the notion of yielding.

  • lswift70

    To get away with killing someone else, get behind the wheel. Driver entitlement is the default.

  • TJHillgardner

    Its the behavior of the institution that is the NYPD that is utterly despicable and leads to so many people willing to join in chants of “Fuck the Police.” Why not, when they try to blame the victim in a clear case of officer misconduct. The Law Department attorneys should be sanctioned for frivolous conduct in litigation in connection with their assertion that the victim assumed the risk of crossing a city street, at the corner, in the crosswalk, in obedience to the pedestrian control device. They don’t care about the people of this city. They only care about themselves. Fuck the police!

  • Mike Littlefield

    I volunteer to be on the jury. To help in the selection process, here’s my verdict: I find for the plaintiff in the amount of $16.2 million in compensatory damages and $878.7 million in punitive damages for the defendant’s stupid, arrogant and absurd defense. My offer is good as long as I don’t have to set foot in your ridiculous, corrupt city.

  • SDGreg

    Apparently NYC cops prefer their Zero Vision policy.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    so you were driving too fast for the conditions

  • NYC, NYPD, and Mayor DeBlasio just wiped their asses with Vision Zero.

    By the way, just the other day the NY Times covered a story where four plainclothes NYPD officers in an unmarked car almost ran down a black mail carrier. When the mail carrier complained, they arrested him. The crime, of course, Complaining About Police Conduct While Black.

    We need a national condemnation of NYC.

  • Good one!

  • JB

    NYPD, your officer did not do this on purpose, but it was no “accident”.

  • hang3xc

    No, I wasn’t

  • Alexander Vucelic

    You weniger that you were driving too fast to safely Avoid two children in the dark. That Is imprudent

  • neroden

    Paula Medrano committed manslaughter. The NYPD engaged in a *criminal conspiracy* to prevent her from being brought to justice. Any honest DA (are there any?) would arrest Medrano. Any honest mayor or police chief would have had her suspected from duty already. A federal prosecutor could go after the entire NYPD on RICO charges — has Preet Bharara been notifed?

    This NYPD crime gang is out of control. Is it going to require organizing a local miltia to bring these criminals to justice? Because if that’s what it takes, New York City has done it before, though not for over a century.

  • neroden

    We need the criminal NYPD “police oficers” to be *arrested* for their crimes and *charged with them*.

    The first question is, who’s gonna arrest them? The mayor and city council members personally have the power of arrest. So elect the right mayor.

    The second question is, who’s gonna charge them? The current group of DAs seem to be corrupt criminals who are cooperating with the NYPD crime gang. So gotta elect new DAs… or run a private prosecution, which is still legal, but the judges try to pretend it isn’t, so better to elect new DAs.

  • neroden

    When they behave like this, forget “fuck the police”. These police are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to cover up manslaughter. They deserve to be executed for their crimes.

    Death to the criminals infesting the NYPD.

  • neroden

    Remember, don’t riot. It may take a while, but these are the steps:
    — Elect the right mayor and DAs.
    — Organize a militia under the authority of the mayor, DAs, and judges.
    — Then go and arrest the damn crime gang bosses at the NYPD.
    — If they actually resist arrest and attempt to draw guns on the lawful militia, kill them — at that point it’s self-defense.

  • neroden

    The attorneys should be found in contempt of court for making frivolous arguments.

  • neroden

    Whole damn organization is a crime gang.

    If you see an NYPD cop, you are quite correct to be in fear of your life, since they are all guilty of conspiracy to cover up murder and manslaughter.

    Is vigilante justice the only justice in NYC now?

  • neroden

    Disband the NYPD and start over. It’s been done before. (In the 1890s.) The new police department had to shoot a bunch of the old police department when the disbanded police refused to disarm. You’ll probably have to do that again.

  • neroden

    No. You don’t join a crime gang to “make a change”.

    If you really care, elect a mayor who will clean up the NYPD.

    And elect a DA who will arrest the numerous dirty cops.

    If you really care, run for DA. On a platform of arresting the criminal cops.

  • neroden

    Most cops in NYPD don’t do their jobs.

    How do we know this? Paula Madrano has not ben arrested for manslaughter, despite uncontested facts proving that she committed manslaughter.

    Any cop in NYPD could arrest her. *Any one*. Not one has done so. They’re not doing their jobs.

  • neroden

    Good idea. This needs to be bombarded at the mayor so he recognizes what sort of a crime gang he’s dealing with at the NYPD.

  • neroden

    Violence is probably going to be necessary. But we have to get organized and WIN ELECTIONS first. Democratic legitimacy matters.

    When we have a mayor and a DA on the side of justice, who are willing to arrest and prosecute NYPD criminals — *then* if the NYPD criminals start resisting arrest (as I expect them to), *then* violence will become necessary

  • neroden

    The white male officers routinely get away with manslaughter.

  • neroden

    Correct response to that was to arrest every last one of them.

    Why didn’t de Blasio do that? As mayor he personally has the power of arrest.

  • neroden

    Correct. According to the illogic of NYPD’s so-called law department, every time a cop gets killed, that’s just an accident, their own fault for being a cop.

  • neroden

    If the city lawyers had any integrity, they would (a) advise the city to admit all claims and give the plaintiffs what they asked for, and (b) ask the judge why the DA hasn’t prosecuted the KILLER for manslaughter, and invite the judge to empanel a grand jury to do so.

  • neroden

    A legal filing IS an official position taken by the City. Sorry, you’re just wrong here.

  • neroden

    Every time an NYPD cop is killed, it’s grounds for cheering. And it shouldn’t be. But NYPD has been allowed to degenerate into a crime gang. The next mayor needs to either clean it up (by arresting lots and lots of cops) or dissolve it.

  • neroden

    Schneiderman could investigate.

    So could Preet Bharata. (Federal DA for the district which includes NY; he’s been indicting most of the politicians in Albany.)

    I would advise talking to both of them to make them aware of the gross corruption in the NYPD. Both of them seem interested in rooting out corruption.

  • neroden

    We need to find a stronger lever. I honestly think the only way to get a stronger lever is to run a DA campaign. The ads write themselves — CORRUPT DA THOMPSON LETS COPS MURDER TEACHERS — VOTE BRAD AARON, CLEAN UP THE CITY

  • neroden

    Preet Bharata, the federal DA who covers NY, has authority to take on the NYPD. He can use RICO.

  • neroden

    (a) Defendants are not entitled to frivolous arguments, and this was frivolous.
    (b) The City as a defendant should not defend cases where they have no case.

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