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Bypassing the Courts, NYPD Clears Hit-and-Run Trash Hauler Who Killed Neftaly Ramirez

Franklin Street at Noble Street in Brooklyn, where an Action Carting driver killed cyclist Neftaly Ramirez and left the scene. Photo: Google Maps

After defending him in the press, NYPD filed no charges against the Action Carting trash truck driver who fatally struck cyclist Neftaly Ramirez and left the scene.

Neftaly Ramirez
Neftaly Ramirez
Neftaly Ramirez

Ramirez was riding on Franklin Street in Greenpoint at around 12:30 a.m. on July 22 when the driver, southbound on Franklin, hit him while turning right onto Noble Street.

Ramirez, who was on his way home to Manhattan after work, died at the scene. He was 27.

To win a hit-and-run conviction in New York, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know a collision occurred -- which can be a surprisingly high burden of proof. Due in part to state laws that Albany legislators have failed to reform, drivers who flee the scene of a crash often avoid charges by claiming they were unaware they hit someone.

It is not unusual for NYPD to give hit-and-run drivers who kill people a preemptive defense in the press, and the department continued the practice in this case. While the driver was still at large, NYPD excused his actions, telling the media it was possible he "didn't realize" he struck Ramirez.

Last week NYPD announced that no charges had been filed, based on investigators' belief that the driver, whose identity was shielded by police, didn't know he ran over a man on a bicycle.

NYPD told Gothamist there was “no indication of criminality.” Since the driver continued along his route after the crash, police said, he “probably didn’t realize he had hit the victim.”

So rather than filing charges for leaving the scene and letting the justice system determine innocence or guilt, NYPD decided on its own that the driver who killed Ramirez was not culpable.

"In cases involving large trucks, the police will sometimes bend over backwards to excuse a driver who claimed ignorance of the collision by emphasizing how heavy the truck is, how rough the road was, and all of the vibrations that they believe led the driver to be reasonable in failing to notice that they ran over a person,” attorney Steve Vaccaro, who represents crash victims and their families, told Gothamist.

Vaccaro said the Ramirez case is reminiscent of the hit-and-run crash that killed Mathieu Lefevre, another Brooklyn cyclist struck by a truck driver and wrongly blamed for his own death.

The vast majority of hit-and-run drivers who hit people in NYC are never prosecuted.

Private trash haulers in NYC have a high rate of fatal collisions per mile driven. Drivers who work for Action Carting have killed three pedestrians and two cyclists, including Ramirez, since 2008, according to DNAinfo. Even so, Action has tens of millions of dollars in city contracts. The city's Business Integrity Commission, which regulates the trash hauling industry, does not penalize companies for poor traffic safety records.

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