Two drivers were arrested after killing a pedestrian and a cyclist in separate incidents in Brooklyn on Sunday — but the collars only underscore a disquieting NYPD practice of immediately apprehending killer drivers only if they have broken additional laws beyond causing the fatal crash itself.
In one case, cops said the driver who killed an e-bike rider late on Sunday night in Canarsie was drunk. In the other, the driver who killed a pedestrian in Dyker Heights was unlicensed, cops said.
Sunday's arrests follow a pattern of cops acting swiftly only when a death is coupled with some other alleged vehicular transgression. The NYPD rarely arrests or even summonses a driver for killing a pedestrians or cyclists, even they could cite killer drivers for, at the very least, failure to exercise due care — the root cause of virtually all crashes.
"Occasionally you do see charges for the most egregious cases of reckless driving when there's no other vehicular offense, but they are few and far between," said Marco Conner, co-deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. "At the heart of it is a cop culture that doesn't see reckless driving as its own form of violence."
Conner cited a TA report that once revealed that only seven percent of drivers in fatal crashes ended up being charged with the homicide — and only two percent of crashes led to charges when the driver had not also committed another crime, such as drunk driving.
Charges for recklessness are sometimes issued weeks or months after crashes, but long after any media attention has faded and the arrest could serve as a deterrent to other drivers.
Indeed, several fatal crashes remain still "under investigation" even though the identities of the killer drivers are known. To date, NYPD has not reported any action in the following cases when a driver ran over a pedestrian yet remained on the scene:
That's just a partial list of the pedestrians killed without charges against their killers. There are several recent examples of cyclists being killed with no charges against the driver (note: some cases against drivers are harder to make if a cyclist ignored a traffic signal).
As with the pedestrians, this is just a partial list. And like the longer list above, neither includes hit-and-run drivers, like the one who killed cyclist Aurilla Lawrence in Williamsburg on Feb. 28. The NYPD's record of arresting hit-and-run drivers is also poor: In 2018, there were 5,699 hit-and-run crashes involving death or serious injuries — but only 492 were ever arrested for leaving the scene — that's just nine percent.
Details in the two Sunday differ, with the same deadly result:
- At around 10:37 p.m., police say 29-year-old Mohammed Abdullah was riding on an electric bicycle on Avenue D near E. 105th Street, where he was hit by the speeding driver of an Infiniti G35 that was traveling eastbound on Avenue D. The speeding driver, Treasure Liggins, 22, had lost control of the vehicle, her 4-year-old child in the backseat, cops said. The car came to rest inside a building and neither passenger was injured seriously. Abdullah was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where he died. Liggins was charged on Monday with two manslaughter counts, criminally negligent homicide, drunk driving, child endangerment.
- Also on Sunday, at around 4 p.m., the driver of a massive GMC Yukon struck pedestrian Faquan Li, 64, who was in the crosswalk at 16th Avenue and Cropsey Avenue, police said. The driver, Kamil Aldawaliby, was arrested after cops determined that he did not have a valid driver's license.
The charges in these cases didn't surprise experts.
“There is a longstanding practice of treating crashes with an element of ‘classic’ criminality (DWI, unlicensed operation, hit-and-run, or driver being chased by police) as more serious than the same crash absent such criminality—even when the criminality had nothing to do with the crash,” said lawyer Steve Vaccaro, who often works with crash victims. “That is because cops view their jobs as focusing on ‘classic’ criminality, and most cops presume that negligent or even reckless driving is not criminal (even when it causes injury or death).”
— with Julianne Cuba