NYPD Gives Trash Truck Drivers Carte Blanche to Run People Over and Leave the Scene
A police lieutenant told the Brooklyn Paper that when the driver of a large truck kills someone and leaves the scene, there are insufficient grounds to establish probable cause.
The Brooklyn Paper published a damning story Tuesday on the NYPD practice of withholding information on fatal traffic crashes from victims’ families and the public. An NYPD spokesperson told the paper that police just didn’t have sufficient grounds to charge the Action Carting driver who killed cyclist Neftaly Ramirez and left the scene — echoing statements police made before they even located the driver.
The driver, whose name NYPD has refused to make public, reportedly hit Ramirez while making a right turn from Franklin Street onto Noble Street, in Greenpoint, shortly after midnight on July 22. Ramirez, 27, died at the scene.
With the driver still at large, NYPD excused his actions, telling the media he probably “didn’t realize” he’d run Ramirez over. Last week NYPD made its initial exculpatory assessment official, telling Gothamist there was “no indication of criminality,” since the driver “probably didn’t realize he had hit the victim.”
Under New York law, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know a collision occurred to win a hit-and-run conviction. Flawed state statutes can make hit-and-run difficult to prosecute, but instead of letting the courts determine innocence or guilt, NYPD all but ensured the person who killed Ramirez will face no repercussions.
“You need probable cause to arrest someone,” Lieutenant John Grimpel told Brooklyn Paper reporter Lauren Gill. “If someone hits someone and it’s a big gigantic garbage truck and they don’t know they hit him, you can’t charge someone with a crime.”
So there you have it. Even when police know someone struck and killed another human being with a large vehicle, they don’t consider that sufficient grounds to establish probable cause. All the driver has to do is claim to be unaware of the collision, and there will be no consequences for a fatal hit-and-run crash. And remember — NYPD preemptively offered this excuse before even locating the driver.
Making matters worse, NYPD says the case is still open, even though five police spokespeople have said no charges are forthcoming.
“You don’t make a determination and then say it’s ongoing,” attorney Adam White, an attorney who represents crash victims, told Gill. “It’s the epitome of stupidity and arrogance. They’ve made up their minds, but to block any scrutiny, they say the investigation is ongoing, which blocks journalists and family members from obtaining the crash investigation report. By saying it’s not complete and dragging things on for six months or a year, the smoke clears and the case gets old. People forget.”
NYPD is known for keeping traffic crash files hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. Streetsblog has filed numerous freedom of information requests for Collision Investigation Squad reports. NYPD rejects such requests almost as a matter of course, though months — or even years — may have passed.
“Most of the evidence they rely upon is usually collected within 24 to 48 hours, maybe a week or two,” civil attorney Daniel Flanzig told the Brooklyn Paper. “I can’t imagine what they’re going to recover that they haven’t recovered already. I never see developments later on that they didn’t have before.”