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

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.

Photo: New York Post

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.

  • Kim Wiley-Schwartz

    Check out this streetfilm with the students from De La Salle discussing the dangerous conditions on the street around their school.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/materials-pencil-eraser-speed-gun/

  • Boris

    It’s time for stop-and-frisk for motorists. There’s a good chance they would’ve found something illegal in his car and prevented him from driving. If it’s legal to search people on the sidewalk, it should be legal to search people’s cars on the road.

  • tyler

    So… umm… is criminality suspected in *this* case? The bar seems so high, ya never know. Fleeing from police and killing people — perhaps a reckless driving ticket?

  • carma

    im getting sick of kids getting killed by reckless drivers.

    you bet there is criminality involved in this case.

  • J

    “every citizen [knows] that the most important danger in the city [is] the cyclists”
    -Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal editorial board member. June 3, 2013

    I’m tempted to keep posting this quote every single time someone is killed by a motor vehicle.

  • J

    “every citizen [knows] that the most important danger in the city [is] the cyclists”
    -Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal editorial board member. June 3, 2013

    I’m tempted to keep posting this quote every single time someone is killed by a motor vehicle.

  • Guest

    Shame on every tabloid reporter who wrote a story last week about credit card readers, bikes that wouldn’t dock, and people who were 20 minutes late to work. Shame on them all.

  • I am truly saddened and scared by this incident, as my wife and I plan to walk our daughter to school just a few blocks South of this incident (we had previously been walking her to a school on the Upper East Side).

  • Guest

    You could also post this one, from the simplistic Daily News editorial. “I’d like to offer words in defense of the car.”

  • Guest

    You could also post this one, from the simplistic Daily News editorial. “I’d like to offer words in defense of the car.”

  • TomG

    Don’t the current laws encourage drivers to flee the scene of crimes? I’m constantly reading about motorists who mow down pedestrians and cyclists and flee the scene only to escape charges by claiming that they didn’t see the person and didn’t know they hit them. Have we fostered a hit-and-run culture?

  • Anonymous

    There will be criminal charges here. Meanwhile, unless the family goes after the police for their likely role in causing this, only Streetsblog will even note that very significant part of the equation.

  • KillMoto

    The automobile is horrendously under regulated for 21st century living.  All cars should be equipped with vehicle to vehicle systems that, among other things, have an “emergency override” function that works thusly:  When a nearby police or fire vehicle transmits a special signal, acceleration and top speed of all vehicles in a certain radius are turned way down.  Safe operation of all vehicles is thus preserved (i.e., people can still pull over and clear a path for an ambulance).  People fleeing from the police however would have to do so at a max speed of say 35mph.  

    There would be both a lower incentive to flee, and less death & mayhem when someone does.

  • Guest

    “vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community”

    – How is a patrol officer supposed to interpret this? It’s a gray area with no criteria to make the situation clearer. I’d advise that this policy needs to be “Yes/No”.

  • Mark Walker

    The site of this crash is one block from the site where another driver backed into a crosswalk, striking an elderly mother and daughter. In that case it was the mother who died. The killer was not fleeing police but he was driving with a suspended license. He was fined $500. I cross the same street every day to get to the supermarket and library. Sometimes I think it’s just a matter of time.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/11/11/unlicensed-driver-who-backed-over-and-killed-yolanda-casal-fined-500/

  • I made a half-hearted attempt this morning to get going a hashtag #IfRabinowitzwereright about what the world would be like if Dorothy Rabinowitz were even close to correct in her beliefs. But this incident kind of took the wind out of my sails. It shows one what an obscene side issue all the Daily News, Post and WSJ bleating is. People are dying unnecessarily on a weekly basis and they’re making a huge fuss about the form of road use that isn’t causing it. It’s depressing.

  • A big part of the problem, I suspect, is officers’ adrenalin levels. If one’s questioning a perp, looks away and he hares off, instinct probably doesn’t say, “It’s OK: we’ve got his license and all his details; we’ll find him later.” I’m sure the instinct is to hare off after him and collar him oneself.

  • Joe R.

    The policy should be no chases, period, unless the person being chased is an immediate public safety threat (i.e. they’re a known terrorist carrying a bomb or machine gun or other weapon capable of inflicting massive casualities).

  • Joe R.

    We probably have the technology for police to just turn fleeing vehicles off remotely. Of course, the civil libertarians would be screaming if we put this into practice. They already get bent out of shape at the mere suggestion of downloading vehicle telemetry data after a crash.

  • Driver

    If that were the policy, many criminals would find taking off to be a much more viable option than being arrested for any number of offenses such as drunk or drugged driving, possession of drugs or guns, unlicensed driving, outstanding warrants, etc.
    Such a policy would practically be a free pass to any criminal in a vehicle.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Yes, the policy as it is written now means nothing.

  • NYFM

    There are lawyers who specialize in prosecuting police pursuit crashes and there is little doubt the family has already been approached by one. The tragic Karen Schmeer death was just one of many that have occurred over the years, and there is no reason for this. None. The police have to stop initiating these chases. The results are too often needless, useless tragedy.

  • Daphna

    Karen Schmeer was killed at Broadway and W. 90th Street when police were in pursuit of three men who had stolen allergy medicine from CVS. That crime did not warrant endangering the public to catch the men. Now a little girl was killed at 97th St and Amsterdam and her grandmother injured because the police were pursing someone they wanted to give a moving violation ticket to. The police need to use other tactics that will not lead to innocent deaths.

    Also this street is obviously a bad design. The street design facilitates speeding. And NYC’s free and underpriced curbside parking lead to dangerous driving. Yolanda Casal was killed at 98th Street and Amsterdam while unlicensed driver Edwin Carrasco was rapid backing in pursuit of a parking spot. I was almost hit once by an off-duty fireman further up on Amsterdam who was rapid backing the length of a block in pursuit of a parking spot. He yelled at me with disgust and disdain. Free street parking leads to many problems – people reject complete streets designs because it will interfere with their free but nearly-impossible-to-find parking and they drive dangerously to get spots.

  • Daphna

    This story shows why police like to give tickets to bicyclists to fill their quotas. When giving a bicyclist a ticket the police officer does not have to exit his/her vehicle and walk up to the driver in a motor vehicle. When ticketing bicyclists, the police officer stays seated in his/her vehicle and orders the bicyclist to walk over to them. The police officer does not even roll down his window more than a crack. This is much easier and safer for the police. This explains why police take the easy way out and give so many bicyclists tickets rather than ticketing the motorists who are the ones posing the actual threat to the public.

  • Joe R.

    I assume once police have a license number, they can issue an APB and catch the vehicle later under less dangerous conditions. Besides that, we need to weigh things in the overall context of public safety. Is it worth killing innocent bystanders to catch a person who was smoking pot? Or for that matter even to catch a person illegally carrying a firearm solely for their own protection? There are certain cases where the danger of a police chase is justified if the person being chased represents an immediate threat to public safety (say an armed felon known to take hostages). There are others where a chase makes zero sense. For example, I recall from back in the days of the 55 mph speed limit more people were killed in police chases to enforce the limit than would have been killed by just letting the same people speed.

    In this case, the driver was pulled over for reckless driving. The police already had a license number. They could have put out an APB and apprehended the suspect later on.

  • I’ve made this point more than once before. If you’re a policeman, why would you chase after drivers doing 80mph on the West Side Highway (like those I saw last night) or some guy that blows through a crosswalk and who’ll get a lawyer to argue he didn’t do what you saw him do? Also, cyclists don’t tend to contribute to the Fraternal Order of Police and other bodies that help to get drivers off. It’s far easier to sit by a stoplight (or better you on the Hudson Greenway just after 1am) and hand out a bunch of tickets to easily stopped and restrained cyclists. This is why I argued at the weekend for a comprehensive rethinking of New York’s traffic policing, with targets based not on numbers of arrests but numbers of road deaths in a precinct. That would completey transform the incentives at work: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/06/citibikes-drivers-and-science-of-moral.html

  • Unbelievable that Dorothy Rabinowitz accuses others of being “practiced deniers.” It gives new meaning to the word “denial” to deny the danger posed by motor vehicles causing death and injury in our city every day, while claiming that cyclists are the primary danger.

  • Anonymous

    Re: curbside parking. What do you think about the argument that parked cars are de facto “free bollards” that protect pedestrians on the sidewalk from moving vehicles?

  • Didn’t she qualify this by saying that only the people who are “sentient” recognize cyclists as the most important danger? In other words, didn’t she insult every person who disagrees with her as being non-sentient, or utterly lacking in awareness and even consciousness?

  • Anonymous

    They already have it: Driving While Black.

    Alas, the same racism that permeates stop-and-frisk infects stops of drivers.

    Not to the same extent, of course. But it indicates how institutionalized racism impedes strong and effective traffic-law enforcement.

  • JamesR

    Turning off vehicles remotely? For real? How is a two ton rolling projectile with no brakes or steering a good thing in any way? The civil libertarians are right in this case.

  • Anonymous

    “…transportation deaths still make up the largest category of child injury deaths in NYC.” — Understanding Child Injury Deaths, NYC Dept. of Health, 2012

    We need to insist that our elected officials and the NYPD no longer tolerate this slaughter as the cost of doing business in New York. It’s appalling that we have the answers at our fingertips and don’t implement them ASAP. Just because children don’t vote does not mean they shouldn’t be represented.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/ip/ip-nyc-inj-child-fatality-report12.pdf

  • They were going to arrest this asshole.

    But then he ran over a child and grandmother, who were daring to walk on the sidewalk.

    So now the NYPD has no choice but to let him off scot-free. After all, they can’t be setting a precedent of citing drivers who kill people. That might interfere with their program of harassing cyclists.

  • KillMoto

    Oh Gump please let that happen to me.

    I’ll walk submissively to the police car to take my summons. Lacking a kickstand, I’ll be walking my bike. Police car facing north, bike facing south… I’ll mount, and ride away (likely against traffic). Buh-bye po po.

  • KillMoto

    We can have market priced parking and our bollards too. Just price at the 85% occupancy rate.

  • KillMoto

    Which is why I phrased my original argument the way I did.

    Extreme measures are dangerous. Moderate measures less so.

  • Ian Turner

    “Turning off” a car does not disable its steering or brakes.

  • Joe R.

    By turn off I meant to either shut down the engine, or if the engine is needed for power steering/brakes, then to keep it at idle. The idea here is to just disable the ability of the car to move under its own power. I would leave the implementation to the individual auto manufacturers.

  • robert gould

    “24th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kathleen O’Reilly said that even the
    shooting of a police officer probably should not warrant a vehicular
    chase”

    Typical comment from the pro-criminal liberal mind set in the NY government.

  • robert gould

    No, but without the power assist, from the engine running, on most vehicles it make it very hard to steer or to stop.

  • robert gould

    No, but without the power assist, from the engine running, on most vehicles it make it very hard to steer or to stop.

  • robert gould

    The police didn’t initiate it. The kid did. So the kid is 100% responsible.

  • robert gould

    The police didn’t initiate it. The kid did. So the kid is 100% responsible.

  • Anonymous

    Yikes. My daughter and I ride to school in this general area, on a tandem, but over by Riverside Park. We were just switching to Riverside Park at 97th Street to the RSD roadway when we heard a siren coming from somewhere else in the neighborhood. Don’t know if it was the original cops or additional responders coming onto the scene.

    At any rate, we were exactly where Reyes was aimed, two blocks away, if he’d negotiated the turn without crashing…

  • Anonymous

    I also wonder if a complete-streets treatment of Amsterdam here, similar to what’s on Columbus now from 96th-77th, would have saved lives. In this case, perhaps not; Reyes probably still had a good chance of jumping the curb directly at the corner whether there was a cycletrack & pedestrian island further out into the road or not.

  • Anonymous

    The kid didn’t initiate the chase. The kid fled. It only became a chase when the police followed.

  • Anonymous

    Right: a desire not to hurt or kill additional people represents a “pro-criminal liberal mind set.”

    Up next: person recommends shooting into crowds to stop pickpockets.

  • Anonymous

    So instant vengeance is worth taking innocent bystanders’ lives? So much for the “protect” part of “to protect and serve.”

  • PSA6TRUTH

    24th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kathleen O’Reilly … ASK HER ABOUT HER OWN ARREST WHEN SHE CRASHED WHILE BEING A DRUNK WHEN SHE WAS ASSIGNED TO HOUSING PSA 6 IN HARLEM …. HUMM AND SHE WOULD ALLOW A PERSON THAT SHOT A COP GET AWAY ….. WOW KATHLEEN MY ACADEMY CLASSMATE … YOU TURNED TO BE A REAL WINNER … GUESS BEING A DIKE HELPED YOU UP THE RANKS AFTER ALL …… YOU ARE A JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • PSA6TRUTH

    ROB … SPOT ON …. AND TOO BOOT INSPECTOR OREILLY ONCE KILLED A MAN BEING DRUNK … CALL THE PCT … REQUEST INFO FROM THE NYPD … ALL FOIL (FREEDOM OF INFO) SHE WAS APPOINTED TO THE HOUSING POLICE 4/30/1991 …. SHE ALSO FLED THE SCENE AND WENT TO WORK THAT NIGHT …. SHE IS CONNECTED BECAUSE OF HER FAMILY AND IRISH BROGUE …. CALL PLEASE RESEARCH AND SEND THIS HYPOCRITE WENCH TO RETIREMENT …
    PS …. JOHN BROWN WAS HER UNION REP

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Drivers Kill Four Pedestrians in Six Days, Two Flee Scene

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Four pedestrians have lost their lives on New York City streets since Thursday. Two of the crashes were hit-and-runs and a third killed a four-year-old child. A cyclist is also in critical condition after a man who wasn’t licensed to operate the tractor trailer he was driving struck her on a Bushwick street Friday morning. […]