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NYPD: Still Defending Hit-and-Run Drivers to the Press [Updated]

A video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver suspected of killing him approaches from behind. Image: WNBC
Surveillance video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver who killed him approaches from behind. NYPD told the press the driver may not have known he hit Ma because his truck was big and the crash happened too fast. Image: WNBC
A video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver suspected of killing him approaches from behind. Image: WNBC

Update: As of late Wednesday afternoon police have a suspect in custody and charges are pending, according to NYPD.

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Sheepshead Bay yesterday, and NYPD made excuses for the driver to the media.

Can Reng Ma, 54, was riding west on Avenue U near E. 9th Street at around 5 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a box truck traveling in the same direction, according to the NYPD public information office and published reports. The driver did not stop.

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC
Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC
Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Police told AMNY the truck was a 2016 Freightliner with Indiana plates, and the Post reported that it was a Ryder rental. The driver remained at large this afternoon, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Ma, who came to the U.S. from China seven years ago, was on his way home from work when he was hit, according to WNBC, which posted video of the victim riding on the street as a large Ryder truck overtakes him. His death was the first reported cyclist fatality of 2016.

Locals told WNBC truck traffic poses a significant danger on this segment of Avenue U, where drivers double-park to unload. “Some days it is unbelievable what goes on over here,” one man said.

In New York City, most drivers who harm people and leave the scene are never charged with a crime. Provided police make an arrest, to win a hit-and-run conviction, state law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know he hit someone and caused injury -- a surprisingly high burden. Many cases are dropped, or are not pursued at all, once a driver claims he "didn't see" the victim. Even the city's recently adopted hit-and-run civil penalties depend on the drivers' word.

Though establishing a hit-and-run driver's knowledge that a collision occurred is crucial to seeing justice done for the victim, NYPD sources, as they have in the past, offered the person who killed Can Reng Ma a preemptive defense.

From the Daily News:

Investigators are still looking into whether the truck’s driver even realized the man had been struck, cop sources said.

“Police say it’s quite possible the truck driver they’re looking for has no idea that someone was hit because his truck is so large and the accident happened so quickly,” said WABC reporter Dray Clark.

"Police were investigating whether or not the truck driver’s actions were criminal," the Post reported.

Albany's refusal to reform weak state laws is probably the biggest obstacle to bringing hit-and-run killers to justice. NYPD has also expressed indifference to improving its abysmal hit-and-run clearance rate. Promoting the "invisible victim" defense looks like another sign that the department does not take NYC's hit-and-run epidemic as seriously as it should.

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