UPDATE: Driver Arrested For Killing Cyclist on Coney Island Avenue
The driver whose caught-on-camera recklessness led to the death of cyclist Jose Alzorriz on Coney Island Avenue earlier this month has been hit with a slew of charges by the NYPD.
Mirza Baig, 18, is one of the few killer drivers who is facing prison, thanks to charges that include manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault and reckless endangerment stemming from the Aug. 11 crash when Baig flew down the speedway boulevard and ran a red light at Avenue L, T-boning a minivan that slammed into Alzorriz as the cyclist waited at a red light, cops said.
Under pressure from local politicians and activists — including Mayor de Blasio — the NYPD threw the full summons book at Baig, adding charges for assault, reckless driving, disobeying a traffic device, and speeding. Cops even added in two charges rarely seen in crashes: criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation — an allegation that suggests Baig, of Queens, asked someone to lie on his behalf.
The NYPD announced the charges on Wednesday morning — and Baig was arraigned hours later. He made bail with $10,000 cash, and outside Brooklyn Supreme Court, Baig’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lewisohn, defended his client, saying, “It’s tragic that someone died, but it was an accident.” He walked away without taking any more questions.
Tragic or not, the bevy of counts against Baig suggest that it was no “accident.” And the litany of charges only raise new questions about how and when killer drivers are even held accountable in this city.
Officials with several of the city’s District Attorneys have often — and publicly on Twitter — said that it is very difficult to bring charges against drivers who merely run a red light. That position is often defended by the mainstream media, which is susceptible to the view that deaths stemming from reckless driving are merely “accidents.” Law enforcement officials have claimed that there is a “rule of two” in effect — meaning that cases can’t be brought against a killer driver unless there are multiple offenses beyond merely running a red light.
But lawyers who defend victims have consistently pushed back on that notion — and, indeed, most of the charges against Baig could have been brought simply based on Baig’s decision to run the red light, which triggered everything that came after.
“It is right and just that Mirza Baig, who blew through a red light at a high speed, causing the death of Jose Alzorriz, should be charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular assault and reckless endangerment,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “Yet this should not be an exception to the rule. Our city’s unofficial policy for too long has been that no matter how reckless, dangerous and harmful a person’s driving, there will never be consequences and oftentimes the driver will remain on the road. That needs to change.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said: “I am grateful the police have made an arrest in connection to the death of cyclist Jose Alzorriz. We need justice and accountability for bad drivers in our city, especially as we watch with horror as both cyclist and pedestrian death tolls continue to rise this year.”
Updated to include a quote from Baig’s lawyer.
— With Dave Colon