Cops Finally Arrest Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed a Man Last Year

Photo: Franz Golhen
Photo: Franz Golhen

Law enforcement has finally arrested the hit-and-run driver they say killed a Queens man on a Manhattan sidewalk in October — but only for fleeing, not for the reckless driving that killed the victim in the first place.

On Feb. 19, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance quietly charged 37-year-old Bronx resident Tomas Dunn for taking off in his van and then trying to destroy it after he fatally struck 45-year-old Bing Wan — an Uber driver who was reportedly helping a passenger out of his car — at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 23rd Street on Oct. 27 about 11:15 pm.

Authorities charged Dunn with leaving the scene of a fatal incident, a felony; leaving the scene of an incident that resulted in serious physical injury; and tampering with physical evidence. Vance’s office did not explain why Dunn was not charged for the reckless driving that caused the fatality itself, but merely for everything that happened after.

It is rare for drivers to be charged with causing the death itself, especially if they remain on the scene of the crash.

Cops say Dunn was driving on West 23rd Street “at an apparent high rate of speed” when he lost control and struck Wan as he was standing outside his car. He then struck two more vehicles, injuring another victim inside his car. Dunn then fled, but later had the van towed to a Brooklyn scrap yard, where it was crushed in an effort to destroy the evidence, prosecutors say.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Streetsblog does not make political endorsements. But it is a statement of fact that Vance is an elected official who serves at the pleasure of the voters.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Streetsblog does not make political endorsements. But it is a statement of fact that Vance is an elected official who serves at the pleasure of the voters.

The fatal crash is not Dunn’s first run-in with the law — in 2003, he was convicted of selling a controlled substance; the year before that, he was arrested for using a forged vehicle registration sticker; and in 2000, he was sentenced to probation for a previous narcotics felony that he pleaded down to a misdemeanor, according to the Vance’s office.

Dunn, whose attorney declined to comment, faces a maximum of seven years in prison for the highest charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

The charges against Dunn are noteworthy for another reason: they are so rare. In 2018, Vance’s office only prosecuted two fatal hit-and-run cases. There were five hit-and-run fatalities last year.

The other suspect beside Dunn was Maryland motorist Sherman Harrison, who was charged with murder after he flew down a Tribeca street “at an excessive rate of speed, well beyond the posted 35 miles per hour speed limit” and plowed into a car on Dec. 29, causing it to flip over and erupt into flames, fatally burning the occupant.

Like Dunn, Harrison fled, according to police. He faces 25 years-to-life in prison for his top charge of second degree murder, likely as a result of the massive media coverage of his gruesome crash.

“It’s true that the more publicity around a case the greater the likelihood that more severe charges will be brought,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Interim Co-Director Marco Conner, who also has a law degree.

But in Harrison’s case, it was also easier for prosecutors to prove that he showed “a depraved indifference to human life” because he was reportedly driving 100 miles-per-hour — necessary language for bringing murder charges, said Conner.

“The District Attorney believes he can prove recklessness and that the driver’s actions constituted gross deviation from the type of behavior that a typical person would do and typically in order to do that, you need as much proof as possible,” he said. “In surveillance footage they observed that the car was speeding excessively, so that’s one kind of aggravating factor connected to proving recklessness.”

Dunn was similarly speeding, although not as fast, when he lost control and hit Wan — an action harder to prove as flagrant disregard for human life, said Conner.

“There was also video footage, but the arresting officer does not describe any dangerous driving,” he said.

  • Aloyicious

    There’s no rhyme or reason to how cops enforce reckless driving. I was given a ticket for reckless driving because I was trying to avoid a double parked vehicle and my left tire veered over the double yellow line. No one was hurt. But kill a guy? Not reckless according to our boys in blue. I need to leave this city.

  • William Lawson

    “Vance’s office did not explain why Dunn was not charged for the reckless driving that caused the fatality itself”

    Vance wouldn’t punish a driver for killing someone even if it were his own grandmother under the wheels. I’m not even sure what he thinks his job is.

  • William Lawson

    I believe there is a reason for it. Not just for the indifference of cops, but also of DA’s, judges and politicians. The reason is that they have a fundamental reluctance to punish vehicular behavior that they themselves are guilty of on a daily basis. By doing so, they’d be hurting themselves.

    These are the kind of people that drive into the city from the burbs in giant SUV’s and are as entrenched in that windshield culture as much as anyone. Drivers excuse their habitual lawbreaking and recklessness internally, by telling themselves that accidents are inevitable and that they’re an acceptable price to pay for the myriad of benefits they see in car ownership. They have decided that a certain number of deaths per year are acceptable and expected, and thus there’s no need to change their behavior. Having granted themselves this right, they resolve to defend it against any threat.

    Cracking down on reckless drivers like themselves would challenge this resolve.

    A good start would be to make cops patrol neighborhoods on bicycles. We’ll never see any change in the NYPD’s indifferent attitude to vehicular violence until they are dragged out from behind their windshields and forced to see the city from the perspective of people who aren’t like them.

  • walks bikes drives

    He is like a lot of our city cops. Traffic violence isnt sexy enough for them. They want the big arrests. Vance wants the big sexy prosecutions that make a name for him and make people think they are safer, not the ones that will actually make people safer.

  • William Lawson

    Also, they’re well aware that if they start doing their jobs and treating vehicular violence like the serious crime it is, the crime stats would double overnight. They’re literally refusing to protect New Yorkers from a whole subsection of violent crime because they want to keep the crime stats down.


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