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Cops: We Have a Lead in Fatal Williamsburg Hit-and-Run

5:30 PM EST on March 4, 2019

Mourners still gather at Aurilla Lawrence’s ghost bike to protest her death. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Police claim they have a solid lead on the motorist who hit and killed 25-year-old Aurilla Lawrence in Williamsburg last week, and are bringing a suspect in for questioning as they continue the investigation.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told reporters on Monday that investigators had identified "a vehicle of interest, also a driver of interest” in the Thursday night hit-and-run crash on Broadway near Rodney Street in a particularly dangerous stretch of the neighborhood near the Williamsburg Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“We have scheduled this individual to come in and be interview by our detectives, and it is currently under investigation," Chan added. "We’re in the process of looking for any additional video and also witnesses.”

Chan did not release the motorist's name or even if he is suspected of killing Lawrence in the Feb. 28 crash. The driver behind the wheel of a silver tanker truck that rolled over Lawrence’s body, and then fled.

The news of a suspect comes after cyclists lashed out against New York’s Finest for again targeting them in the wake of the fatality. Chan denied that officers from Williamsburg’s 90th Precinct specifically targeted cyclists in their post-crash ticketing spree, which is also known as the "72-hour plan." He said 32 tickets had been written to drivers and only one to a cyclist.

“In terms of enforcement, normally when we have a fatality at any location in the city involving a vehicle and things of that nature we will conduct a 72-hour enforcement plan at that particular location,” he said. “In the 72-hour plan we issued 33 summonses, one summons was issued to a bicyclist.”

Local Council Member Antonio Reynoso defended the 90th Precinct as one that knows that cyclists are not to blame for their own deaths, but he also complained that other commands are not so enlightened.

“I want to be very clear. Blitzing does exist and is a huge problem," said Reynoso tweeted, a reference to the crackdown on cyclists that occurred most recently in Midtown Manhattan, where cops ticketed cyclists for not wearing a helmet, which is not against the law, and bicycling outside a bike lane. Another cop tackled a cyclist to stop him in an attempt to give him a ticket. 

Reynoso instead put the blame on Mayor de Blasio for unfairly and disproportionately targeting bike riders — who did not kill a single person in New York City in 2018 while drivers killed 201 — as part of a misplaced effort to make the streets safer.

"I think it speaks to misguided and poor transportation policy by Mayor. But the @NYPD90Pct is an exception,” he said. 

Streetsblog asked NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill whether cops fully understand the difference between 3,000-pound cars and 50-pound bicycles, and whether they are keeping score of the fatal carnage last year: drivers 201, cyclists 0.

"They are, as a matter of fact," said O'Neill. "They all go to traffic stat. [But] we do conduct enforcement, we do have to make sure everybody drives safely and rides safely."

— with Gersh Kuntzman

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