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Amidst Tabloid Attack on Bicycling, Another Child Killed By Reckless Motorist

12:01 PM EDT on June 4, 2013

Update: The Post and DNAinfo have identified the victims as Ariel Russo, 4, and her grandmother, Katia Gutierrez. The driver has been named as Franklin Reyes, 17. Correcting information released earlier today, NYPD now says Reyes has a record of one arrest, and it was not for robbery, according to the Post.

A young child and a woman were struck by the driver of an SUV during a police pursuit this morning on the Upper West Side, according to reports. The child, a 4-year-old girl, was killed.

Both victims were transported to St. Luke's-Roosevelt. The second victim, the child's grandmother, age 58, was in critical condition, reports said.

The crash occurred near W. 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue at around 8:15. The Times spoke with a witness who said an SUV "was racing north on Amsterdam Avenue with a police car in pursuit when it swerved onto the sidewalk."

The driver of the S.U.V. had been pulled over for reckless driving around 82nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, shortly before the accident, the police said.

But as the two officers exited their patrol car to approach the S.U.V., the driver sped away, according to the police.

During the pursuit, the driver, an 18-year-old man, lost control of his vehicle and struck a building some 15 blocks away, near 97th Street. As the driver backed up, he struck the child and her grandmother, the police said. The police have not released the driver’s name.

The driver attempted to flee the scene but was apprehended. "It was a young guy driving the car," said witness Nancy Caviera. "The police were trying to stop him."

NYPD vehicular pursuits have ended in death and injury for several bystanders in recent years, including Karen Schmeer, who was killed at Broadway and W. 90th Street. The 2010 crash that killed Schmeer and today's crash both took place in the 24th Precinct.

From the NYPD Patrol Guide: "Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if [the] suspect is not immediately apprehended."

After Schmeer's death, 24th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kathleen O'Reilly said that even the shooting of a police officer probably should not warrant a vehicular chase. "We've got ballistics. We've got evidence," she said. "We'll track them down." WNBC reports that, according to NYPD, the suspect in today's crash had previous arrests for robbery and marijuana possession.

From the Post:

“He sped up to get away from the police -- that’s when he hit the lady and the child,” said one witness.

The child was unconscious and covered in glass from the window of Asian Fusion Cuisine, said one bystander. The mother was semi-conscious and also bloody.

“I heard the noise, I came into the street,” said Chris Prostko, a super who lives nearby. “They were lying on the sidewalk in front of the crushed window.”

Multiple reports say both victims were pinned against a building.

The Times reports that the crash occurred at "a time when the sidewalks are crowded with children arriving at De La Salle Academy, a private middle school on 97th Street." The Times also said it took "some 20 minutes" for an ambulance to arrive, according to multiple witnesses.

If the driver in this fatal crash was indeed fleeing police, odds are he will face serious charges from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. As we wrote in the aftermath of another NYPD-involved fatality, only once has Vance prosecuted a motorist for causing the death of a pedestrian or cyclist in a crash that did not involve alcohol or a police chase. And as we said then, prosecutions by district attorneys in other boroughs adhere to the same pattern.

The little girl who died this morning was at least the fourth child under the age of 12 killed by a New York City motorist in 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Her death occurred as the New York Post and the New York Daily News continue their assault on measures intended to improve conditions for walking and biking.

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