NYPD Clears Hit-and-Run Driver and Blames Deceased Victim in the Press

NYPD says a man struck by a hit-and-run driver in East Harlem killed himself by lying in the street. While psychologizing the deceased victim to the press, police defended the driver, and filed no charges against him for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

Christopher Costa was hit on Madison Avenue at E. 115th Street between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Tuesday. Yesterday the Daily News reported that after Costa was struck, “several motorists drove around his body without even stopping.”

Christopher Costa was killed in East Harlem by a hit-and-run driver who was not charged. Photo via Daily News
Christopher Costa was killed in East Harlem by a hit-and-run driver who was not charged. Photo via Daily News

“He was face up, but his skull was open,” witness Vivian Rolon told the News. “The cars didn’t stop. They just kept driving around him.”

Costa was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Today the News and the Post reported that, according to anonymous police sources, Costa laid down in the street before he was run over. According to the News, in one video of the crash Costa “suddenly [shows] up lying motionless in the roadway behind a speeding car.” That video was posted by DNAinfo and is embedded above.

The News reported that a second video, which NYPD has not released to the press, “shows Costa walking into the street and lying down in a prone position before he was struck.” It’s unclear why NYPD released one video but not the one that depicts the police account of the crash.

The Post said Costa “committed suicide.” Two unnamed people, cited as “a police source and a witness,” told the News “Costa had a serious drug problem and had been drinking.” Police also noted that Costa was “wearing all black.”

While speculating to the media on the motives and actions of a victim who can’t speak for himself, with a helping of juicy gossip concerning his personal life, unnamed police sources absolved the driver, whose identity was shielded.

From the News:

The driver who struck Costa did not stop but cops later located him. He is not being charged because cops believe he did not know he had hit somebody.

The driver told cops he mistook Costa lying in the road for a pile of garbage, a police source said. He couldn’t swerve out of the way because he was boxed in by two cars, he told cops.

Leaving the scene of a crash that results in death is a felony in New York State. For prosecutors to get a conviction, they must prove to the court that the motorist knew or had reason to know a collision occurred. By declining to file charges and let the justice system run its course, NYPD acted as judge and jury to exonerate the driver who killed Christopher Costa.

Costa was the third pedestrian killed by a driver in the last two months who, according to NYPD, died after lying in the street. John Bangura, the cab driver who allegedly killed Kenya Flores on First Avenue, was charged with leaving the scene. He told authorities he thought he hit a pothole.

  • Of course vehicles are not equipped with any device which gives a third option between “swerving out of the way” and “running over an obstruction”…

  • AMH

    I knew this would happen. Rather than investigate why he was lying there, they just assume he was suicidal or otherwise deserving of his fate.

  • rao

    It’s clear that the biggest stumbling block to livability and mutual respect in this city is the NYPD, an organization whose core ethos is resentment and suspicion of most of the community it serves. In 2017, we need a new mayor who will bring in fresh leadership committed to rooting out and reforming the department’s entrenched culture of entitlement and laziness. That mayor should come directly from the communities most impacted by the department’s callous disregard for the rights of citizens. Though it might be hard to see it at times, there is a direct line connecting Black Lives Matter to Families for Safe Streets to those upset about the scapegoating of Peter Liang. What aspiring politician will connect the dots?

  • red_greenlight1

    It doesn’t matter why he was in the road. Drivers still have to avoid hitting him.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not sure I believe the motorist’s story. Maybe if the street in question was very poorly lit it might be possible to mistake a human being for a pile of garbage but even then it’s questionable. For one thing, even if it was a pile of garbage, I’d slow down because it could be something hard which can damage the vehicle. I recall back in my days living in a housing project a fair number of kids actually lied down in the street, presumably to end their lives, but I don’t remember anyone actually being hit. I guess drivers were a lot more careful and observant 40 years ago.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    25 miles per hour Illuminates why the driver Is a liar

  • walknseason

    Not hard to see it at all. The sad thing is all the so called progressives who defend BdB in the press/online. See the commenters on Gothamist for example.

  • mattkime

    on one hand i agree with you, on the other…we need to figure out a way to convince the nypd that its in their best interest to take up Vision Zero. not easy, but ‘forcing’ them seems unlikely.

    how does the nypd set priorities? measure success? etc.

  • Kevin Love

    How about those who don’t do their job get fired. And those who commit crimes of violence against innocent people get criminal prosecutions and serious jail time.

  • Kevin Love

    When a hunter with a rifle “mistakes” a human being for a deer there tends to be criminal prosecutions. Why should it be any different for a car driver who “mistakes” a human being for a pile of garbage?

    When one is piloting a lethal weapon through the streets of New York, there is a legal responsibility to do so safely. To bad we don’t have a police force that believes it is their job to enforce the law instead of blaming the victim.

  • WalkingNPR

    I guess I’m confused by this sudden epidemic of people “laying down in the road.” Is this truly happening? In which case, let’s do something about the substance abuse or mental health issue that’s causing it.

    Or is this just the new “the pedestrian just ran out into the street, officer!”? Either way, it’s disturbing and clearing the drivers of wrongdoing should not be the end of the conversation.

  • Joe R.

    Put traffic injuries and deaths under the violent crime statistics tracked by CompStat. Precinct performance seems to be measured by whether or not they reduce levels of violent crime. Precinct commanders would be held accountable for failing to reduce traffic violence if it was considered part of CompStat.

  • rao

    It’s got to come from the top.

  • nanter

    First you’re going to have to get rid of the union.

  • Kevin Love

    I am a professional accountant. I have worked in plenty of unionized companies that had no problem with progressive discipline leading to termination of employees who did not do their jobs.

    This is not a union problem. It is a management problem.

  • nanter

    This is a massive government bureaucracy with a disproportionately powerful union, not one of the companies you’ve worked in.

    There’s no question that this is a management problem. It’s also a union problem. Like most things, this is not a black and white issue.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Get the NYPD Out of Their cars. There Is no reason any Manhattan Cop needs to Drive to his Patrol location. If They didn’t Drive They would cease to Have a Motorist ethos

  • Andrew

    I guess I’m confused by this sudden epidemic of people “laying down in the road.” Is this truly happening?

    Considering that I’ve never ever seen anybody lie down in the road, I highly doubt it.

    Or is this just the new “the pedestrian just ran out into the street, officer!”?

    l strongly suspect it is.

  • Kevin Love

    You are right if you believe that the police union is out of control and facilitating illegal behavior. Illegal behavior that ranges from corruption such as placard abuse all the way up to horrific crimes of violence.

    But it is up to management and political leadership to put a stop to this.

  • Joe R.

    Public employee unions tend to be a lot less reasonable than private employee unions. Unlike a private company with limited revenues, a municipality is seen by unions as a piggy bank with unlimited funds due to their power of taxation. If a union asks for too much in a private company, the likely result is the company folds, the jobs are gone. Therefore they usually don’t. With public employment, the standard union answer to any request for benefit or wage increases is to just raise taxes to pay for it. Unions have yet to understand ultimately the amount of revenue you can derive from taxes has an inherent limit. Raise taxes too much, the people who pay most of them, namely the upper middle class and wealthy, leave, eroding the tax base. This is what happened to cities across the board in the 1970s. Many of them still haven’t completely recovered. It would be wise for unions to learn from the past. Refusing to terminate poor employees stems from the same attitude, namely the thought a municipality can just afford to keep hiring more employees to offset those who don’t do their jobs. This is part of the reason NYC has twice as many police per capita as most other large cities. Half of them could go yesterday with no decrease in public safety. When you have a significant number of police doing BS like giving bike or jaywalking tickets then you have too many police.

  • Kevin Love

    That refusal to terminate poor employees is a management and political decision. When I was in Germany, the public employees seemed to be efficient, hard-working and diligent.

    Other places seem to have no problem firing unionized public employees who don’t do their jobs. And the political leadership is 100% supportive of those terminations. See, for example:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/hamilton-fires-29-city-road-workers-who-allegedly-ran-personal-errands-when-they-should-have-been-patching-potholes

  • Joe R.

    Probably as much a political problem in NYC as a management one. NYC rarely gets leaders brave enough to take on the unions. DeBlasio in in bed with the unions. This most likely explains his choice of Bratton. He picked someone he knew wouldn’t rattle the cage. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the end results of that decision with a wholesale refusal to lend police support to Vision Zero. It goes so far that police refuse to charge one of their own even even when a video clearly shows fault. It’s time for Bratton to go. Indeed, it’s time for DeBlasio to go. Any mayor who promises to take on public employee unions has my vote. Their excesses are going to bury NYC.

  • walks bikes drives

    Not true. A huge number of NYPD officers drive to work, or anywhere, for that matter. This is what gives them a motorist ethos, not the fact that they are driving police cars to patrol locations.

  • walks bikes drives

    It took me forever of watching the video over and over again to understand what it was showing. He didn’t just magically appear – right before he shows up out of no where, you can make out his body under the car you see speeding past him. Which means that he was in an area blocked from view of the released video. So why did they release this one instead of one that more clearly shows what happened?

    Contrary to most of the other comments below, the story of the motorist does make sense that the driver, seeing just a black shape, thought it was a trash bag.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    true but at least a partial solution; eliminating placards and free parking at their precient would go a long way towards reducing their drive to work ethos, but that’s stage 2 🙂

  • walks bikes drives

    I strongly disagree with you here. That should be stage 1. ?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    in a perfect world it would be stage one

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