NYPD Arrests Pedestrian After Near-Death Brush With Raging Motorist

ped_car_conflict.jpgCenter Boulevard and 48th Avenue, the Long Island City intersection where a pedestrian was nearly mowed down by an erratic and angry driver. Locations approximate. Image: Google Maps/Carly Clark

A Queens man will go to court tomorrow following a charge that he damaged the vehicle of a driver who — twice — nearly ran him down in the street. The incident occurred some three weeks before the road-raging motorist encounter that triggered a legal ordeal for Manhattan cyclist Ray Bengen.

On the morning of May 6, Gerald Beekman (an alias we’re using at the victim’s request) was walking his two dogs on 48th Avenue in Long Island City, en route to Gantry Plaza State Park. When he reached Center Boulevard, which borders the park, Beekman checked for oncoming traffic. Seeing only a black car to his left some distance away and moving slowly (Beekman assumed the driver was looking for a parking spot), he started to cross. As he approached the middle of the street, Beekman checked to his right for traffic that is obscured by a grassy median (pictured here). At that point, the car he had seen to his left barreled past — on the wrong side of the street and, by Beekman’s estimate, traveling at 40 to 50 mph — missing Beekman by three feet, and nearly running over his dogs, who were in front of him. After passing Beekman, the driver hit a piece of trash in the street, presumably an empty can or bottle, which issued a loud report.

Here’s what happened next, in Beekman’s own words:

As soon as the black car stopped, I walked the approximately 30 feet from the pedestrian crossing to where the driver was sitting — almost alongside the south facing parked cars — but pointing the wrong way.

I was in a state of mild shock. I had almost watched my dogs run over right in front of me and I felt sickened. It must have taken me about 15-20 seconds to walk with my two dogs to the black car and when I reached it, I leaned toward the open passenger side window and shouted, “Hey buddy, where’s the fire? You almost killed me and my dogs!”

The driver looked startled and disoriented. He also appeared to be holding a cell phone and in the middle of a conversation. Sounding confused, he asked, “Did you hit me?” It was apparent he had not seen me at all and had no idea I was in the crosswalk 30 feet behind him — or that there was a crosswalk or an intersection.

I was taken aback and replied sharply, “Do you see me driving a car? I was on the crosswalk back there when you almost killed us!” I told him he should get out and check he hadn’t run anyone over, because he had nearly taken me and my dogs out when he blew through the crosswalk, speeding the wrong way up the street, not looking where he was going. I told him I was lucky he hadn’t killed my dogs and me. “You’re reckless and dangerous. Get a grip!”

With that exchange, which lasted less than a minute, Beekman walked away. But the driver then made a U-turn, Beekman says, and drove straight toward him. Beekman ran for the curb, dragging his dogs by their leashes. The driver stopped in a crosswalk and, remaining in his car, began shouting.

The driver appeared enraged and very hostile because I had criticized his driving and called him reckless and dangerous. He had no interest in apologizing for almost running me and my dogs over in the first place -– or chasing us to the curb soon after.

Beekman says he repeated himself to the driver — that he was driving carelessly on a residential street with many pedestrians and school kids — until it became apparent that he was wasting his time. Anxious to get the incident behind him, Beekman, who had been standing with his hands on his knees so as to address the driver, still in his car, stood upright. Shaking, dizzy and nauseous, Beekman says he steadied himself by putting his elbow against the roof of the car. He then “staggered” away, and had to squat to keep from falling. For the first time, the driver got out of the car. He stood in front of it as Beekman gathered himself, his dogs, and the newspaper he had planned to read — he had lost the cup of coffee he’d been holding — and headed toward the park. Some 10 minutes later, as he exited the park, Beekman saw the driver, still parked in the crosswalk, leaning against his car and talking on his cell phone. According to Beekman, he “appeared to be laughing.” Beekman says the driver called out to him, but that he “had no interest in any further interaction,” and continued on his way home.

Though his route took him past the 108th Precinct, based on previous experience, and because he was not actually hit, Beekman felt sure that going to the police would be an exercise in futility. So he went on with his day, commuting to work in Manhattan, then returning home to take his dogs for their afternoon walk. As he stood talking to neighbors, Beekman was approached by two police officers — an Officer Sorrentino and Officer O’Brien. Sorrentino asked Beekman if he had been in an “altercation” earlier that day. As he told his story, Beekman saw that the same black car was parked a short distance away, with two other police officers nearby. Not long after, Officer Sorrentino interrupted Beekman and walked to the car, conferred with one of the officers, and returned.

I tried to continue with my account but Officer Sorrentino interrupted me and asked me if I had “any contact with the car.” I tried to finish my account by way of explanation but Officer Sorrentino insisted — repeating several times more and more insistently: “Did you have any contact with the car?” I replied, “He almost ran me over — but missed — me by three feet, my dogs by a foot.” Again Officer Sorrentino demanded: “Did you have any contact with the car?”

Beekman recounted the moment when he had leaned against the car for support, at which point Sorrentino returned to the black car. The driver was walking around it, pointing to its sides. Sorrentino again conferred with the other officers — one of whom Beekman assumed was his sergeant — before returning to inform Beekman that there were “dents, scratches and scuffs” on the car. Incredulous, Beekman replied that it was impossible that any of the marks could be attributed to him, that he had not touched the side of the car, and that he had seen the driver himself leaning against the car after almost running him down. Officer Sorrentino replied that the car “looked pretty new to have any damage,” Beekman recalls. When Beekman asked for proof that he had harmed the vehicle — photos or fingerprints, for example — Beekman says Sorrentino responded that he had “been watching way too much TV.”

Sorrentino asked Beekman to come down to the precinct to give his story. Beekman said he would be happy to, and asked if they could walk the short distance to the precinct house. Sorrentino said no — they had to ride in a squad car. Beekman was under arrest.

Beekman stresses that Sorrentino was apologetic, though he was unable to “explain or decide” what exactly Beekman — who has never received as much as a speeding ticket — was being charged with, only that it was “very minor” and that it should be over in a couple of hours, assuming Beekman “checked out.” Officers drove Beekman to the station, dropping off his dogs at his apartment along the way.

At the precinct, where Beekman was held for almost five hours, Beekman says Sorrentino and another officer scolded him for not “clearing up” the matter that morning. As Beekman sat in a holding cell, an officer who was not present during the arrest, laughing, told him: “You just don’t kick a man’s car.” Beekman replied that he had done no such thing, and that the officer was the first person to suggest he had.

Like Ray Bengen — assaulted by a driver who almost ran him over with his SUV, then charged by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office for slapping the vehicle in an attempt to save his own life — Beekman was charged with criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison.

Streetsblog has a message in with the 108th Precinct for the officers’ account of what happened on May 6. A spokesperson for Queens DA Richard A. Brown’s office said that a prosecutor has not yet been assigned to Beekman’s case, as he was given a desk appearance ticket.

Beekman’s attorney, Frank Perrone, is a former Queens prosecutor. He believes that when the driver ran over the can or bottle in the street, he thought he had hit Beekman. “And I think that, almost in a preemptive need to protect himself, he went and filed this completely bogus and erroneous complaint,” says Perrone. “The police department, unfortunately here — as long as the complaining witness is willing to swear to a supporting deposition, they have to file the complaint.”

The driver’s name, however, isn’t on the desk appearance ticket. To this day, Beekman does not know the identity of his accuser (believing the incident was over that morning, he did not note the license plate number). As of now, no deposition has been filed, according to Perrone. “All we have is a statement of the charge. So the assumption is that he [the driver] went into the police department and said that my client either hit, or bumped into, or did something to his car.”

Perrone is confident that the charge against Beekman will eventually be dismissed. “It really seems like this guy was just a lunatic,” he says.

  • This story is freaking outrageous. Even money says the driver was a cop. Can Beekman’s lawyer get the police report? I hope he sues the city for f***ing false arrest.

  • Never talk to the police. The cops are NOT your friends. They’re out to arrest anyone, that’s their job, they’re like angry bees, don’t get near them, don’t draw their attention.

    Never talk to the police.

    Try not to rely on them for enforcement, when designing or desiring livable streets.

  • Ian Turner

    This street is a death trap. It is roughly 40 feet across, plus space for parked cars, and carries no median or crosswalk markings. The message it sends to cars is “drive fast here”. Vehicles never stop for foot traffic, though there is a huge pedestrian presence, and they frequently park in the crosswork. I myself have more than once been nearly run over by speeding vehicles at this very spot. The only nice thing about this whole design is the bollards that keep cars from entering the park.

  • Even though cops alreay probably know this intellectually, it seems that it has to be spelled out to cops crystal effing clear that no form of touching, bumping, or even angrily slapping a car is ASSAULT. It is probably most-often basic self-defense, which, as a cop once told me, is allowed in a confrontation.

    Not that Beekman clearly even did any such thing.

  • Boris


    But not immediately reporting the altercation to the police is exactly what got Beekman into trouble.

  • –should clarify: I know the story doesn’t mention “assault;” I’m just saying it seems as if cops look at a report of a person touching a car the same way they look at an accusation of assault. And that’s crazy.

  • Adam

    @Boris: I’ve tried reporting nearly getting hit by speeding cars to beat cops before. Each time, I’ve been told that if they didn’t see it, there’s nothing they can do. As such, immediately reporting the altercation seems rather a poor defense.

  • Car Free Nation

    As much as I hate to say it, confronting drivers really gets you nowhere. Drivers in New York City are always angry (it’s frustrating driving here), and if they drive poorly or recklessly, by the nature of who they are, not willing to listen to reason. Has anyone on this blog ever had an experience where they confronted a driver here and the driver said something like “Gee… you’re right. I made a mistake. I’ll drive more carefully next time.”?

    Also, since someone in the driving position is sitting, and someone walking or biking is towering over them, it creates an uncomfortable power sense. Even though the driver is in a 2-ton killing machine, he feels vulnerable to the walker/cyclist. In the article above, Beekman leaned over to talk with the driver. That kind of thing hurts one’s manhood.

  • Pete

    CFN: Hence the need to drive a towering SUV to protect one’s manhood.

  • ConfrontsSometimes

    “Has anyone on this blog ever had an experience where they confronted a driver here and the driver said something like “Gee… you’re right. I made a mistake. I’ll drive more carefully next time.”? ”

    Yes, I have actually gotten that response, from but more often than not people who drive dangerously enough for me to want to say something are long gone by the time I catch up.

  • J

    I once put my hand on a car to steady myself as I squeezed through a bike lane blocked by cars. The driver jumped out of the car and grabbed my bike and wouldn’t let go. He claimed I scratched his car. Indeed the car was scratched, but the height didn’t correspond to any part of my bike. At an impasse, we called the cops, they wrote things down and then left. It’s been over a year, and I haven’t heard a word since. The guy who grabbed my bike definitely wasn’t a cop though. I imagine that the only reason that this story with Beekman went as far as it did, was that a cop was involved.

  • Doogles

    If someone is going to lie and say outlandish things about you, you need to put it right back on them. Therefore, when Beekman was asked if he had touched the guy’s car, he should have responded with “Yes, when he hit me with it.” Cops go back to the guy in the car and tell him “hey, this guy’s gonna press charges because he says you hit him,” guy decides it’s not worth the effort, and everyone walks away.

  • Car Free Nation, yes, I’ve had that experience many times. Sure, the angry and useless reactions outnumber those good experiences, but that’s not going to stop me from confronting drivers when I see them do something very dangerous (provided I can catch them).

    Interesting thing about times I’ve confronted drivers: when they’ve endangered ME, on my bike, that’s when I get mostly angry bastard reactions. But I have gotten more good, properly ashamed reactions when I’ve told drivers that they’ve just endangered OTHERS, e.g., nearby pedestrians.

    I always try to be calm when I approach them. It’s often very difficult to be calm in such moments, but it has made my confrontations much more successful.

  • Re: #12, Great, let’s all lie and see whom the police believe; that just doesn’t sound like a terribly productive strategy, particularly if any witnesses materialize.

  • For better or worse, CFN is right: don’t confront drivers. It’s a losing proposition.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If it makes anyone feel better, one journalist has decided to stop texting while driving.


  • Seems like the cops value a car body more than a human body

  • Ray

    WTF is going on in this town ? Considering this is an election year, can we not get some justice going here ? Sure, I’m peeved, and my grapes are very sour, but hey WTF is going on ? Tragically, it could get much worse with people dying like the children in Chinatown. Somehow the DA’s in this town need to change their tactics together with the NYPD in cases like these. I just don’t know how to get them to do that. One would imagine that they would want to do the right thing, but I suppose when politics gets in the way, that just doesn’t happen. I think an email blitz is in the offing….

  • Rich Wilson

    “Has anyone on this blog ever had an experience where they confronted a driver here and the driver said something like “Gee… you’re right. I made a mistake. I’ll drive more carefully next time.”? ”

    I had a driver do a right hand turn just as I was about to cross with the walk light. I yelled. He doubled back, and I got out a piece of paper and pen to get his plate #. He started yelling at me, and kept asking “Did I touch you?” Finally I had the presence of mind to say “You scared the shit out of me. What would you do if someone did that to your mother?” (I’m a man, not sure why I said mother, but it came out). He stopped, said “Sorry”, and I crumpled the paper in front of him.

    I had a similar incident when crossing with my 7 month pregnant wife. I was holding a newspaper in my hand, and my instant reaction was to smack the back quarter panel of his car as he went past (he was that close). He stopped, but I think looking in his rear view of me glaring at him next to a very pregnant woman gave him second thoughts, and he took off.

  • Remind me not to spend ANY money in the city when I’m there attending the Walk 21 Conference this fall!

    I’d rather hop on the PATH back to Hoboken and at least spend my money in a state that at doesn’t prosecute the victims of vehicular aggression.

  • Vehicles are plenty aggressive in Hoboken, and the police do NOT care.

    After reading this story, I feel like I just want to go down to that courtroom and say something very, very nasty to the DA and the cops, but it’s not in my blood to do that unless provoked or cornered.

    I want updates on this. If Max is found guilty he should appeal this pronto. DNA evidence will easily exonerate him. He should ask the court to order the cops to take a DNA sample and to get DNA samples from the car.

    It makes me very mad that cops put the fragility of a shiny car over the safety of humans.

  • Paul

    A friend of mine once reported to the NYPD that a certain individual stole some things from him then assaulted him. My friend was told that if he wanted to press charges then he would be arrested and taken to jail. Or he could just walk away and forget about it.

  • Paul

    Wow! What I just noticed is that my friend mentioned in the above post lives on this very corner. Weird.

  • True enough (about the Hoboken PD) but I’ve never heard of cops doing something like this in Jersey.

    In fact I’ve had two incidents happen to me while riding my bike, in the town where I work, where the cops gave the offending driver summonses. In both cases the drivers did not respect my right-of-way.

    When will someone in NYC government realize that these crazy stories involving the NYPD really hurt the city’s otherwise excellent reputation.

    I’m serious when I say that it makes me want to spend my money elsewhere. My experience with cops in Philly for example have always been more that outstanding and I’ve never heard of similar incidents involving the PD happening there.

  • gecko

    You should confront drivers when they are wrong and they should be told so.

    Maybe you can’t do it all the time but most when they have the time to think about what transpired will likely (hopefully) come to their senses when the situation arises again.

    They also have a huge amount to lose if they are wrong besides the moral issue.

  • Either my 5% bad apple theory for cops doesn’t hold or we’re just running into the 5% of cops that are bad apples.

  • rex

    Cops, can’t live with them, can’t compost them when they go bad.

  • Imagine if this story made the Post; people would be commenting about how the pedestrian is some sort of elitist snob who probably deserved to get hit by the car even though the car driving the wrong way is inherently elitist-snobbish.

  • the thing y’all need to understand about the nypd is that it is a microcosm of the rest of the united states and as such, it’s employees will do anything to get out of having to do any sort of work. cops only see retiring at 45, or whatever it is and nothing in between. funny enough though, we pay their salaries and for their retirement.

    they work for us.

    if i can’t do my job, i get fired. if cops don’t do their jobs, they get called heroes.

  • Another side to all of this is that the city loses a lot of money here.

    I once got arrested at 72nd and Broadway. I had been pulled over for something minor (I think accidentally crossing a bus lane I didn’t know was there). 6 months before I’d gotten a small $40 ticket and thought I paid it. Apparently I hadn’t, the city didn’t send me a reminder and the DMV suspended my license and I didn’t know it. I was cuffed, taken to a precinct and spent the next 6 hours there. I received a Desk Appearance Ticket like the man in this story. I had to hire an attorney and show up in court.

    I met my lawyer at the courthouse (we spoke once on the phone previously) and after 2 minutes in front of a judge and an asst. DA, I left after paying NYC $50.

    All told, this ordeal took about 4 hours of two street cops, 4 hours from a desk cop, time from a judge and time from an asst district attorney. And all the city got was $50. But they lawyer? He got about $1000 for about 15 minutes of work.

  • jim

    Might as well just remove all the pesky stop signs in this town cause they seem to be invisible to most drivers. Especially the one on 48 ave in front of Avalon Riverview North. I CONSTANTLY watch people just blow through that sign as if it read “pleas accelerate as you approach this sign”

  • jb

    Uh did anyone wonder about the comment “putting his elbow against the roof of the car”? A hand maybe, but an elbow? Something isn’t right about his story.

  • Cathy

    Carry a cell phone with a camera – or a cell phone and a camera. Sportcams are good, you turn them on and they run continuously. With a 2 GB SD chip, you can record for an hour.

    I had 3 incidents like this in the last month or so. Things seem to be getting worse. I was just jogging on the side of the road and in each case, a motorist nearly took me out by running stop signs (and they saw me). I yelled stop! They stopped to berate me, getting out of the cars and trying to intimidate me, and one sicced his Doberman on me. I did nothing further to provoke them.

  • Peter from Stuy Town

    The reason things are getting worse is the same reason Obama’s having such a hard time selling his healthcare plan: people hate change. The days of everything revolving around the automobile are limited. That generates anger and resistance.

    We just have to keep doing what we have to do: look out for your personal safety, for your fellow cyclists and do your best to retain Zen-like calm.

    I’ll quote Patrick Swayze instructing his bouncers in ROAD HOUSE: “All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice. I want you to be nice…until it’s time to not be nice.”

  • Kaja

    How about “don’t talk to the police”?

  • Kaja

    How about “don’t talk to the police”?

  • Kaja

    How about “don’t talk to the police”?

  • Kaja

    How about “don’t talk to the police”?

  • Kaja

     Accidental necromancy, pardon me. Anyway, regarding 

    > But not immediately reporting the altercation to the police is exactly what got Beekman into trouble.

    Dude incriminated himself by telling the police he touched the car. When asked whether he touched the car, he should’ve asked, “am I being detained?”, and followed a negative with “so I am free to go?”


  • Kaja

     Accidental necromancy, pardon me. Anyway, regarding 

    > But not immediately reporting the altercation to the police is exactly what got Beekman into trouble.

    Dude incriminated himself by telling the police he touched the car. When asked whether he touched the car, he should’ve asked, “am I being detained?”, and followed a negative with “so I am free to go?”


  • Kaja

     Accidental necromancy, pardon me. Anyway, regarding 

    > But not immediately reporting the altercation to the police is exactly what got Beekman into trouble.

    Dude incriminated himself by telling the police he touched the car. When asked whether he touched the car, he should’ve asked, “am I being detained?”, and followed a negative with “so I am free to go?”


  • Kaja

     Accidental necromancy, pardon me. Anyway, regarding 

    > But not immediately reporting the altercation to the police is exactly what got Beekman into trouble.

    Dude incriminated himself by telling the police he touched the car. When asked whether he touched the car, he should’ve asked, “am I being detained?”, and followed a negative with “so I am free to go?”


  • bemn

    This is a belated follow-up – after that whole mess, I wanted to put it all behind me.

    First of all, thanks for all the support and good advice. I’ve learned a hard lesson not to trust the police and to volunteer absolutely nothing. 

    Anyway here are a few highlights:

    1. At the first court appearance, the “victim’s” original complaint was read and was recorded as having been made by a Miss Robinson – the owner of the vehicle in the incident. In actual fact a bearded fellow in a Yankees sweatshirt was actually driving the car and present nearby later when I was arrested. My attorney immediately noted that – although I wish he had commented on it to the ADA and challenged it. However the ADA had not yet secured a formal statement – or been able to contact with the driver or even the mystery Miss Robinson.

    2. At the 2nd and 3rd court appearance, the ADA had still not been unable to get a statement from the “victim”. Time was running out for securing the formal statement but meanwhile it was costing me time, money, distress and anxiety. 

    3. At the 4th court appearance – more time and legal expenses, finally a semi-coherent statement from a Mr. Robinson claiming I hit and spat on his car (the spitting was a new complaint). Short and sweet. The ADA offered an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal and instructed me to pay up to $500 in damages upon presentation of proof of repair by the “victim”.

    4. A few months later I reappeared at court – for the 5th time!! However at this point, my attorney told me it was a formality so he didn’t accompany me. I went to the court clerk as instructed but was told that no proof of repair had yet been presented, so had to return again in a few months!!

    5. At this point, I insist on seeing the ADA without my attorney and talking to the judge herself. I was directed to a court and waited a few hours to be called – just before lunch. At first I was faulted for not having an attorney present but was allowed to make a statement. 

    I listed the numerous court appearances, a little of the original non-event, the inconsistent “victim’s” statements/sex in the original complaint and statement when it was finally secured – on the last possible day or admissibility, now the repeated failure of the car’s owner to deliver any physical proof of the alleged damage in the form of an invoice for repair in 1 year!! All the while I had appeared at the courthouse as required 5 times to date – taking time from work and at considerable legal expense.

    I made my statement carefully and calmly – having ranted about it so much to friends, it was honed down to the honest bare bones.

    The judge listened, instructed the ADA to look into the matter and then adjourned the court for lunch.

    I returned after the interval and was immediately called before the judge. She asked the ADA what he had managed to find out and he reported the following:

    The driver of the vehicle was known to the police and had a very long record. He was considered a person of very low standing and a menace in the community. Moreover at the time of the incident he had had numerous suspended licenses – and had only regained one shortly prior to his complaint. The ADA further stated that his office had had great difficulty contacting him and finally secured a formal statement when the police were interviewing him in regards to another matter. The ADA noted that the original complaint was made by his wife – the owner of the vehicle, although his office did not believe she was present at the time of the incident and she had refused to make any further statement or even talk to the DA’s office. Inasmuch, the ADA stated that both the DA’s office considered both the driver and his formal statement were very unreliable. Moreover, subsequently, his office had not been able to contact this person again.

    It was a very damning admission of overreach and petty vindictiveness by the DA’s office in the year prior to this complete climbdown, as well as an indictment of either the incompetence, stupidity or corruption of the police – or very likely all of the above. They knew the driver and knew he had a long criminal record.  

    The judge rescinded the ACD and instead completely dismissed the case and ordered it sealed. Moreover she addressed me directly and made a complete apology for the time, trouble, distress and expense I had suffered in regards to a case wholly without merit. It may sound a bit foolish, but that sincere apology made an enormous difference to me. She also instructed the ADA to look into the circumstances behind his office’s handling of the matter to see whether it merited further investigation – I took this as a rebuke to them.

    Lastly, when my attorney sent me the their last bill, I took them to task for “running the clock out” and not taking a more aggressive approach especially after the inconsistency of the initial complaint came to light at the first arraignment. I didn’t pay the bill and they didn’t pursue it further. I believe they acted in good faith but played the game, perhaps even making a series of errors by not confronting the DA’s office over the technical error of the arresting statement compounded by their inability to contact the “victim” and secure a formal complaint – and when they finally did, question it’s inconsistency and unreliability. 

    Everyone can draw their own conclusions – although in my experience, the most negative views of the cops and the DA’s office can’t be contemptuous enough.

  • dporpentine

    That sounds horrible. Just horrible.

  • Eric McClure

    Unbelievable. Or, actually, not unbelievable.  Im glad the judge, at least, had the class to apologize.

    Sorry for your ordeal.

  • Anonymous

    Sheesh.  What a freaking saga.  The fact that “the system” can go so far off track does not reflect well on the people who make it go–from the cops to the DA to the lawyers.  The only person who gets punished is the guy who nearly got run over.  How broken can the system get before people have had enough? 

    Reminds me of my former crack-head “super” who stole stuff out of everyone’s apartments and nearly burned our building down on several occasions while doing drugs in the basement who had the police arrest and jail one of my neighbors on some made up assault charges just because he didn’t like him.  You really can just have anyone arrested at any time for any made-up reason?  Insane.