NYPD Gives Trash Truck Drivers Carte Blanche to Run People Over and Leave the Scene

A police lieutenant told the Brooklyn Paper that when the driver of a large truck kills someone and leaves the scene, there are insufficient grounds to establish probable cause.

NYPD has a get-out-of-jail-free card for drivers of large trucks who strike and kill people. Image: News 12
NYPD has a get-out-of-jail-free card for drivers of large trucks who strike and kill people. Image: News 12

The Brooklyn Paper published a damning story Tuesday on the NYPD practice of withholding information on fatal traffic crashes from victims’ families and the public. An NYPD spokesperson told the paper that police just didn’t have sufficient grounds to charge the Action Carting driver who killed cyclist Neftaly Ramirez and left the scene — echoing statements police made before they even located the driver.

The driver, whose name NYPD has refused to make public, reportedly hit Ramirez while making a right turn from Franklin Street onto Noble Street, in Greenpoint, shortly after midnight on July 22. Ramirez, 27, died at the scene.

With the driver still at large, NYPD excused his actions, telling the media he probably “didn’t realize” he’d run Ramirez over. Last week NYPD made its initial exculpatory assessment official, telling Gothamist there was “no indication of criminality,” since the driver “probably didn’t realize he had hit the victim.”

Under New York law, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know a collision occurred to win a hit-and-run conviction. Flawed state statutes can make hit-and-run difficult to prosecute, but instead of letting the courts determine innocence or guilt, NYPD all but ensured the person who killed Ramirez will face no repercussions.

“You need probable cause to arrest someone,” Lieutenant John Grimpel told Brooklyn Paper reporter Lauren Gill. “If someone hits someone and it’s a big gigantic garbage truck and they don’t know they hit him, you can’t charge someone with a crime.”

So there you have it. Even when police know someone struck and killed another human being with a large vehicle, they don’t consider that sufficient grounds to establish probable cause. All the driver has to do is claim to be unaware of the collision, and there will be no consequences for a fatal hit-and-run crash. And remember — NYPD preemptively offered this excuse before even locating the driver.

Making matters worse, NYPD says the case is still open, even though five police spokespeople have said no charges are forthcoming.

“You don’t make a determination and then say it’s ongoing,” attorney Adam White, an attorney who represents crash victims, told Gill. “It’s the epitome of stupidity and arrogance. They’ve made up their minds, but to block any scrutiny, they say the investigation is ongoing, which blocks journalists and family members from obtaining the crash investigation report. By saying it’s not complete and dragging things on for six months or a year, the smoke clears and the case gets old. People forget.”

NYPD is known for keeping traffic crash files hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. Streetsblog has filed numerous freedom of information requests for Collision Investigation Squad reports. NYPD rejects such requests almost as a matter of course, though monthsor even years — may have passed.

“Most of the evidence they rely upon is usually collected within 24 to 48 hours, maybe a week or two,” civil attorney Daniel Flanzig told the Brooklyn Paper. “I can’t imagine what they’re going to recover that they haven’t recovered already. I never see developments later on that they didn’t have before.”

  • It’s a scandal-level trend in the PD. They can’t ever back up their reasoning why they withhold case files in the end.

    We need an independent monitor to make the determination for closed cases / FOIA going forward, anytime someone from the public makes a request. It can be subject to a brief delay but days not years. We need a City Council hearing to debate that suggestion and put an intro forward for it.

  • John C.

    BdB needs to be held to account for his NYPD. Or do they control him? Maybe get Cuomo to say he’d prosecute if only he could…..

    Also, if a “big, gigantic garbage truck” can’t be operated on city streets safely, it’s time to outlaw them!

  • Vooch

    It might be time to include traffic violence in the stats each PD captain is rated on. If they get rated on the number of pickpockets, why not traffic violence ?

  • BortLicensePlatez

    Everyone please call Borough President Eric Adams’ office, they were very responsive, and go to the 94th precinct meeting next month. Lets tell these thugs they have to start taking cyclists seriously.

  • Al Mundy

    Even assuming that the cops find the driver, there is reasonable doubt that he knew the accident had happened. These are large noisy, vibrating trucks and the bump may not have been felt.

    Also, it is not clear that a crime was committed. Absent witnesses or video, it may be hard to prove this was anything other than an accident. But at least there could then be an insurance claim.

  • Setty/Steven

    If these vehicles can’t be operated safely on city streets they shouldn’t be allowed on city streets.

  • Setty/Steven

    When you throw bolts off the Empire State Building you can’t always tell if you’ve hit someone. That’s why it’s not allowed.

  • Al Mundy

    Not sure I see the analogy. One is an intentional act and the other is not.

  • Al Mundy

    The article first states that NYPD refuses to reveal the name of the driver. Then it goes on to say that the driver is “at large”, which implies that NYPD don’t know who or where he or she is.

    Which is it?

  • Al Mundy

    They are safe 99,99% of the time. You could say the same about any vehicle that is involved in an accident. Doesn’t mean that we need to ban anyone or anything.

  • fdtutf

    “At large” means the NYPD doesn’t know where the driver is. It implies nothing about whether or not the NYPD knows who the driver is. Known suspects for various crimes are often “at large.”

  • fdtutf

    Any vehicle that prevents the driver from knowing whether or not he or she has struck an object as large as a human being is unsafe for use on city streets and must be banned.

  • William Lawson

    Garbage trucks are responsible for more injuries and fatalities per mile in NYC than any other kind of vehicle. The main problem is the kind of morons who drive them. There is no reason why they cannot be operated safely.

  • William Lawson

    Not possible. Go and watch some videos in which similar kinds of trucks run over cyclists. There are plenty online. The wheels go up and over the body, and that motion is reflected in the driver’s cab. There is a bounce. It is highly unlikely that it’s possible to run right over a body in one of these machines without feeling it.

  • William Lawson

    Well it’s close, because one is an intentional act and the other is an intentional act of recklessness, i.e. the driver consciously made the decision to pass a cyclist and make a hard right turn in front of him, an act which displays a startling disregard for human life.

  • Al Mundy

    We don’t know the details yet as not all information about the incident has been disclosed by the police. However we can reasonably say that throwing objects off a building is a clearly deliberate act, while the death of this cyclist was clearly not intended.

  • Al Mundy

    I think a glancing blow could happen without a driver being aware. Or the driver might have felt a bump but thought he had just hit the curb. Depends how much noise and vibration was going on at the time.

    Remember there only needs to be reasonable doubt. The larger the vehicle, the more reasonable such doubt becomes.

  • Al Mundy

    The article doesn’t say it was a garbage truck. If it was then the driver would be easy to locate and identify.

  • Al Mundy

    There are existing limits on weight, height, width and number of axles already. This truck was presumably within those limits.

    I’ve driven a large articulated truck and I can assure you that it’s not always possible to detect a bump or sound at the rear of the vehicle.

  • Al Mundy

    “At large” in that context means that he is a suspect with a warrant out for his arrest. That is not the case here.

    Either the driver is unknown OR he is known but not a suspect.

  • William Lawson

    What are you talking about? Not only was it an Action Karting garbage truck (they knew that from the start) but they’ve already located the driver, apologized for troubling him and sent him on his way with a lollipop.

  • William Lawson

    “Reasonable doubt” is no reason to completely exonerate a killer without putting him on trial before a jury. At the very least, it is clear that the truck would have had to pass the cyclist on the approach to the turn, thus knew that he was turning in front of a cyclist without yielding. That is an act of grave recklessness which demonstrates a disregard for human life. The idea that this scumbag is getting off without so much as a slap on the wrist is disgusting.

  • Al Mundy

    So, like I said, they could not find probable cause that a crime was committed. Their finding was that this was an accidental death. An insurance claim can now be made, which is how these things are usually resolved.

  • William Lawson

    The reason why not all the information has been disclosed by the police is because they are deliberately keeping the investigation open to prevent people from obtaining that information. There is no transparency with these investigations when it comes to the NYPD. They have a history of victim blaming and continuing to victim blame even when evidence emerges to disprove it. That alone should be grounds to prevent the NYPD from withholding the details of their investigation. We need to scrutinize them on every level. Also, like I said, the death of the cyclist was not intended but the act of recklessness was. Like if you blew a red light and killed someone, you may not have intended to kill someone but you sure as hell intended to blow the light. Blase attitudes to reckless driving in this city – both from motorists and law enforcement, are entirely WHY we have a culture of reckless driving which kills and maims thousands every year.

  • Al Mundy

    The DA cannot prosecute every case that crosses his desk. A DA has to use judgement and experience to determine which cases are winnable and which are not.

    If the truck made the turn well ahead of the cyclist then there is not necessarily any blame there. We need more details.

  • Al Mundy

    I imagine there will be an insurance claim, and perhaps a civil suit, and the information will come out then.

  • William Lawson

    “The DA cannot prosecute every case that crosses his desk” — the DA’s workload is not and never will be reasonable grounds not to prosecute someone. Someone lost their life, almost certainly by an act of criminal recklessness which should be prosecuted. If the truck made the turn well ahead of the cyclist then in all likelihood Neftaly would still be alive. How many people in this city are killed by drivers making reckless turns without yielding? It’s the #1 cause of pedestrian and cyclist deaths. And we won’t get “more details,” because the NYPD has elected to exonerate the driver based purely on his claim that he didn’t know he had hit someone and because the NYPD refuse to close the case so that the public can access the details. The whole thing stinks and if you want to sit back and let these incompetent bastards get away with perpetuating this culture of recklessness on the roads then fine, but some of us will never be OK with it.

  • Al Mundy
  • William Lawson

    No, they just accepted the driver’s claim that he didn’t know he’d hit someone. Knowing how poorly and incompetently the NYPD investigates road fatalities, it is almost certain that their acceptance of this claim was NOT based on a thorough evaluation of the facts and was motivated by their desire to draw a line under a case they’d rather not spend any serious time investigating. For example, if the state of Neftaly’s body was such that he’d been run over by the wheels (which is basically what happens when a turning garbage truck runs into you) then it could be shown that the wheels go up and over a person and their bicycle, relaying more than enough sensory feedback to the driver in the cab that he has driven over something. Go look at any video of a truck of a similar size running over a cyclist and you will see for yourself how the truck bounces up and down as it goes over.

    Fatal accidents in the workplace are investigated with infinitely more care and precision than road traffic accidents. Tests are done. Recreations if necessary. Forensic examination of equipment. And ultimately, if negligence is determined, people go to jail. Imagine if, after that big ass crane collapse in Turtle Bay a few years ago, the owner of the crane just said “I dunno, it just fell, these things happen” and the case was closed there and then. Yet in the case of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, this IS the standard of NYPD investigation. Other newspapers reported that the NYPD didn’t charge the driver based on two things: his insistence that he didn’t know he’d hit someone, and the fact that he continued on with his route afterwards as if nothing had happened. Both of these claims are sufficiently doubtful to warrant a proper investigation and a trial. If you seriously believe that “the findings” of a police department notorious for botching investigations are sufficient to close the case on the death of a human being, then you’re either a cop, a relative of a cop, or you’ve never had any personal dealings with the NYPD before.

  • William Lawson

    I don’t know what you hoped to achieve by posting those two links, but what you actually have achieved is to illustrate brilliantly how much more seriously law enforcement takes criminal accusations against cyclists. Still, it has to be said that neither of those two stories have ANYTHING to do with this one.

  • William Lawson

    And don’t you think it’s sad that relatives of victims have to resort to the personal expense of a civil suit in the absence of any real justice from the authorities? It’s disgusting. Nobody goes to jail after a civil suit. The company pays out, most likely from an insurance claim. There is no real consequence. A few years ago I witnessed the aftermath of a young woman cut in two on 1st Avenue by a non-yielding garbage truck which sped around a corner at such high speed that it dragged her body halfway up the block. Not a single charge emerged against the driver in relation to her death, despite there being many witnesses saying he was driving like a bat out of hell. The cops made no attempt to retrieve any camera footage that may have captured the crash. I spoke to the girl’s French parents a few weeks later, they were canvassing the area for information to launch a civil suit. The father told me he couldn’t believe how utterly uncaring, incompetent and feckless the NYPD had been about the whole thing. They basically refused to investigate any further. This is what we’re dealing with.

  • Brad Aaron

    The story does not say the driver is still at large. It says NYPD excused his actions before police located him.

    NYPD has identified the driver. They just won’t reveal his name to the public.

  • Al Mundy

    Wrong. The article clearly states:

    “With the driver still at large, NYPD . . . “

  • Al Mundy

    Not really. In the SF case there was no jail time, and the London case is ongoing, and the perp may yet walk.

  • Your poor comprehension of the post and subsequent comment storm are too aggressively stupid to retain privileges here.

  • Andrew

    Yes. Back when the driver was still at large.

    Brad Aaron wrote the article. I suspect he might know what he meant.

  • William Lawson

    First of all, 3 years of probation and 1000 hrs of community service is infinitely more than most drivers get for failure to yield deaths, which is mostly a big fat nothing. Secondly, in the British case, there is no basis for saying that he “may yet walk” other than by simple virtue of the fact that we don’t know one way or the other yet – and also, the fact that he went on trial at all is significantly more criminal justice than Neftaly got.

  • Red Monk

    Ben, it seems to me Al has a point. Saying that someone is “at large” implies that they are wanted for a crime. At this point, the driver is not regardless of whether we think he should be.

  • fdtutf

    Nothing you said refutes my comment.

  • fdtutf

    You just contradicted yourself.

    “At large” simply means “not currently in custody.” It implies nothing about whether or not the person’s identity is known.

  • Andrew

    They are safe 99,99% of the time.

    For the sake of argument, I will take “safe” to mean “doesn’t kill or seriously injure anyone” and will assume that the typical New Yorker encounters an average of two garbage trucks per day.

    If garbage trucks are safe 99.99% of the time, then they are unsafe 0.01% of the time, or 1 time out of every 10,000.

    Based on these numbers, a New Yorker will have encountered 10,220 garbage trucks in 14 years, and therefore should expect to be killed or seriously injured by a garbage truck in under 14 years.

    In other words, 99.99% safety is nowhere near good enough.

    A driver making a turn must first make sure that he isn’t cutting off somebody going straight. If, due to the design of his vehicle, it’s hard for him to see what’s going on, that places an additional burden on him to be especially cautious. If you’ve seen the way private carting drivers drive, “especially cautious” is probably not what immediately comes to mind.

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