Relatives of Senior Killed by Staten Island Driver Not Satisfied With NYPD Victim-Blaming

Disregarding the driver's role, NYPD suggested Rita Palumbo caused the collision that killed her, though available information indicates she might have had the right of way.

Jewett Avenue at Coale Avenue. Photo: Google Maps
Jewett Avenue at Coale Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

A motorist fatally struck 68-year-old Margherita “Rita” Palumbo in the Staten Island neighborhood of Westerleigh last week. NYPD filed no charges and put responsibility on the victim. But available information suggests the victim may have had the right of way, and Palumbo’s family is seeking more details on the driver’s actions before the collision.

At approximately 7 a.m. on November 1, a 52-year-old man traveling southbound on Jewett Avenue hit Palumbo with a Toyota pickup truck.

From the Advance:

As the Toyota was approaching Coale Avenue, the vehicle struck Palumbo as she was attempting to cross from the east side of the street mid-block on Jewett, police said.

The driver, whose identity was withheld, was not charged or ticketed. NYPD’s phrasing gives the impression that the victim was jaywalking, though that may not have been the case.

Coale meets Jewett at a T intersection with unmarked crosswalks, the type of crossing where state law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians.

Palumbo, a native of Naples who was picking up an Italian-language newspaper when she was struck, sustained “catastrophic” injuries to her head and body, the Advance reported. She died at Richmond University Medical Center hours after the crash.

While Vision Zero-era NYPD typically discloses cherry-picked details, often proven incorrect, that shift blame to people killed by drivers, police practically never mention driver speed.

The Advance says Palumbo’s loved ones “want police to investigate” the role of the driver’s speed in the crash. “If he was speeding, we just want to know,” said Anna Palermo, Palumbo’s sister.

“The family has been told that she was captured on surveillance video running across the street,” the Advance reported, “which they regard as better than moving slowly.” However, if Palumbo ran into the driver’s path, and he wasn’t speeding, under the law she might not have had the right of way.

NYPD should release the video it obtained as soon as possible to resolve the legal ambiguity. But as a rule, NYPD shields crash information from the public, and even victims’ families.

Margherita Palumbo was killed in the 120th Precinct, where officers have ticketed 842 speeding drivers in 2017, and in the City Council district represented by safe streets truther Steve Matteo.

  • JTP Choons

    Surely there are experts who can assess a person’s injuries and conclude that the vehicle which hit them was traveling within a certain range of speeds.

    I’m willing to bet that they would testify that Palumbo’s injuries were consistent with being hit by a vehicle traveling considerably faster than the 25mph speed limit.

    Even if a fatal crash victim was jaywalking, it is quite possible for the driver to have 100% of the blame if it turns out they were driving too fast to stop in time, or that the person’s injuries were fatal only because of the high rate of speed.

    DA’s keep saying that they can’t prosecute these cases because they’re too hard to prove. But have they even tried?

    Also, with regard the video, what is stopping the family from obtaining it from the same source as the NYPD? Does the NYPD have the power to order the owner of the footage to keep it private?

  • I believe such assessments amount to educated, scientific guesses, and can be challenged and/or picked apart by a good defense lawyer in court. What would settle the matter would be the information on the vehicle’s event data recorder, but that takes a court order for investigators to access. Thanks, state and federal laws that protect drivers. Who, I’m told, are being persecuted in a war on motorists.

    I reckon a DA isn’t going to go through much bother to do what it takes to mount a prosecution that will amount to the driver winding up paying a fine and taking some safety classes, the way every ROW Law case ends. We need to change the laws.

  • HamTech87

    Nobody knows the “unmarked crosswalk” rules, probably not even the police.

  • Brad Aaron

    Reporters sure don’t.

  • Joe R.

    I’m pretty sure under 1st Amendment rights the police can’t order the owner of a privately-produced video, such as from a security camera, to keep it private. Heck, if it were me I’d put a video which showed obvious driver fault on you-tube minutes after the event. Once it’s out there, doubtless thousands of copies will exist on hard drives, so there’s no going back. The police would then have to consider the video evidence, as opposed to just burying it, as they often do now (except in cases where a cyclist violates traffic laws and the video magically appears within hours)

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