When a Driver Had a Seizure and Killed Two in Manhattan, It Was Murder

The motorist who killed a cyclist and injured several others in Brooklyn yesterday told police he had a seizure after he did not take his medication. If the driver’s claim is true, the case would be similar to a Manhattan crash that resulted in a murder conviction.

According to reports, at around 7 a.m. Tuesday 37-year-old Claudio Rodriguez, driving against traffic on Fourth Avenue, hit a male cyclist head-on, near the Atlantic Avenue intersection, killing the victim instantly. The Brooklyn Eagle identified the cyclist as 35-year-old Alejandro Moran-Marin.

Reports said Rodriguez hit a stopped vehicle before striking Moran-Marin, and drove into another car before coming to a stop near Fourth and Flatbush Avenue. Five people, including Rodriguez, were hospitalized.

From WABC:

After smashing into the back of the Camry, witnesses say the driver backed up, went around the Camry then drove into oncoming traffic and kept speeding up the block, hitting the bicyclist near Atlantic Avenue.

Witnesses said Moran-Marin’s bicycle was scattered in pieces across several blocks.

A witness told the Daily News he “thought the driver was trying to flee after rear-ending the Toyota because he backed up before taking off.”

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, several outlets reported that NYPD said the driver had a seizure, information the Daily News and the Post said came from Rodriguez himself. “He admitted to cops that he had forgotten to take medication on Monday to control his seizures, law-enforcement sources said,” the Post reported.

“I was feeling, like, you know when you feel dizzy,” Rodriguez said. “After that, I don’t remember until I hit the other guy and the other guy hit me.”

As of this afternoon no charges had been filed against the driver by NYPD or Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, police told Streetsblog. NYPD said the investigation is ongoing.

In 2009, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau secured a murder conviction against Auvryn Scarlett, a sanitation truck driver who killed two British tourists on a Midtown sidewalk. Scarlett was off his epilepsy medication when he hit Jacqueline Timmins and Andrew Hardie.

“Apparently, he stopped taking his medication,” an NYPD spokesperson said of Scarlett. “It was a conscious decision, so he’s being charged.”

“It is like playing a game of Russian roulette, only instead of pointing the gun at yourself, you point it at other people,” ADA Chris Ryan said in court. “And if someone dies — that is murder.”

The circumstances in the two crashes are not identical. Scarlett’s job entailed driving a truck every day. Other factors, including Rodriguez’s medical history, would have to be considered. But if Rodriguez told the truth, yesterday’s crash was precipitated by his failure to take medication required in order for him to drive. Otherwise, available information would suggest that Rodriguez chose to speed down crowded streets, killing a person and injuring five others.

Motorist crashes are routine in the area where Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues meet — a major transit hub near Barclays Center. According to DNAinfo, more than 150 collisions occurred there from January 1 through July 7. Drivers killed two seniors in separate crashes at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush in 2013 and 2014. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams biked to the site of the crash today, where he called for a “fast-tracking of Vision Zero.”

Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue are two of the four streets in line for “Vision Zero Great Streets” funding, but the intersection where they meet may not receive a redesign. The Department of City Planning is studying Atlantic, though the study area does not include the Fourth Avenue intersection, and the Fourth Avenue project will cast in concrete changes that were already implemented with paint.

Responding to calls from Transportation Alternatives and electeds, in March 2014 Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg pledged to prioritize safety fixes on Atlantic. A month later DOT named Atlantic Avenue its first “Arterial Slow Zone,” retiming lights and installing 25 mph speed limit signs. At that time, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan promised to ramp up speed enforcement. As of June the 78th Precinct, where Monday’s crash occurred, was ticketing an average of one speeding driver a day in 2015.

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