Kelly Absolves Officers in Fatal Harlem Chase; De Blasio Shows Interest

Sister Mary Celine Graham died for $23 and a Blackberry.

That’s what armed thieves are said to have stolen from a young Columbia alum prior to being pulled over by police in Central Harlem, and before one of them sped south on Lenox Avenue in the minivan that soon hit another vehicle and spun into Graham, her aide, and a construction worker Tuesday morning.

amd_sister_graham.jpgPhoto via Daily News

Both suspects — original reports said there were three — have been caught. The man allegedly behind the wheel of the minivan at the time of the collision, 20-year-old Dyson Williams, has been charged with murder.

Responding to accounts that NYPD was chasing Williams down pedestrian-packed streets at the time of the crash, which also injured two people in another vehicle, Commissioner Ray Kelly claims no departmental rules were broken. The Times reports:

Witnesses said they saw an unmarked police car about a block behind, its lights flashing and its siren blaring.

But the police account, pieced together from radio transmissions and reports, makes clear that responding officers did not have time to give chase, and that the unmarked police car began its pursuit only two blocks before the Chrysler crashed.

"Police cars did go south behind the car, but they were at least a block away," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. "I wouldn’t consider that a close pursuit. I would consider it appropriate police tactics. It was an unfortunate series of events that caused a nun to lose her life."

So for Ray Kelly, and the Times, this case appears to be closed. However, on his Twitter feed yesterday Public Advocate Bill de Blasio indicated that he intends to look into the recent rash of NYPD-involved crashes. A call to de Blasio’s office confirmed same.

Even if one accepts the department’s version of this latest catastrophe as the final word, it’s clear that an examination of NYPD pursuit policy (if not the propensity for drunk driving among off-duty cops) is overdue. Here’s hoping that effort bears fruit before more New Yorkers are killed and maimed for nothing.

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On Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced the sentencing of Dyson Williams, the driver who killed Mary Celine Graham while attempting to evade police. On June 22, 2010, police investigating a string of gunpoint robberies stopped a minivan occupied by Williams and William Robbins near W. 142nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, according to […]