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NYPD Secretly Alters Victim-Blaming Narrative of Death of E-Bike Rider and Charges Trucker

12:01 AM EDT on October 18, 2019

File photo: NY1

Police have been caught in yet another rush to blame the cyclist victim of a fatal traffic crash, this time quietly amending a report that had initially blamed an electric bike rider for his own death so that the official record now points out that the rider was doing nothing wrong before he was hit and killed by the driver of a massive truck.

In the latest instance of police victim-blaming, the NYPD quietly amended the preliminary report of the Sept. 8 crash, when 62-year-old MD Abul Bashar was run over and killed by a private sanitation truck driver in Gowanus. Initially, cops said Bashar was “traveling north on the east sidewalk” on Third Avenue when he “did exit the sidewalk” and was struck by the driver of a Mack dump truck owned by a Brooklyn-based private carting firm. 

But police later corrected themselves to say that Bashar, a delivery cyclist who worked for a nearby restaurant, was actually doing what he was supposed to be doing — riding on the street and traveling with a green light — when he was fatally run over by the truck at 12th Street. Bashar died from his injuries 10 days later. 

“Lastly this amended report is to reflect that the victim was operating an e-bike north on 3rd Avenue (not on sidewalk) and while entering the intersection of 12th Street he was struck by vehicle #2 making a left turn from south bound 3rd avenue to east bound 12th street,” the report, which was uploaded to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles website, says. 

And there's even video to back it up, according to the report.

"Collision is substantiated by video recovered from vicinity of the scene," it says.

Still, nearly all media outlets regurgitated cops' victim-blaming narrative.

"Bashar...was riding north on Third on the sidewalk and drove into the crosswalk, at which point he collided with the truck’s front bumper," the Daily News wrote, citing the police report.

It's not the first time the NYPD's initially false press release led to a media narrative that absolved a driver for recklessness.

"Whether victim blaming happens unintentionally or not the effect is the same: it compounds the suffering from traffic violence for victims and loved ones. NYPD is fully aware of their tendency to routinely engage in victim blaming and there is no excuse for this practice," said Marco Conner of Transportation Alternatives.

Blaming Bashar for his death only perpetuates the fear-mongering narrative that e-bike riders — most of whom are low-income immigrant men of color — are reckless and dangerous and need to be stopped, remarks repeated again and again by Mayor de Blasio despite the city's own data proving otherwise.

"How the NYPD misled the public and media about Abul Bashar's death is reprehensible by first explaining away the deadly crash through the combination of two harmful depictions: victim-blaming cyclists for their deaths and painting immigrant delivery workers as being unlawful," said Do Lee of Biking Public Project.

And the initial police report went even further to absolve the killer driver, 32-year-old Robert Blakenship — reportedly an off-duty firefighter working a second job — saying that Blakenship, who was traveling southbound on Third Avenue, made the left turn onto 12th Street “with the traffic signal in its favor.”

The amended report confirms that Blakenship did have a green light, but fails to point out that Bashar did too and had the right of way because he was continuing straight on Third Avenue while Blakenship was turning. Blakenship was issued a summons for failing to yield, according to the amended report. An NYPD spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about why it initially blamed Bashar for his death.

The victim-blaming lie that Bashar was riding on the sidewalk is certainly not the first time police have tried to shift fault to anyone but the driver — most recently, cops called out a 73-year-old pedestrian for walking "outside the crosswalk" when he was struck and killed by a Brooklyn driver last week even though there is actually no crosswalk at the intersection; in April, police quickly blamed a 26-year-old cyclist for his own death, saying he "fell into the side of the truck;" and three years ago, cops later admitted their error when they at first wrongly accused 34-year-old cyclist Lauren Davis of biking against traffic when she was struck and killed by a turning driver.

And not only does the victim-blaming speak to cops' indifference towards cyclists and especially e-bikers, it also again highlights the dangers of the rogue private carting industry, whose drivers have killed more than two dozen people since 2010.

"Let's be clear, these tragic accidents are happening as a result of the lack of accountability of the private sanitation industry and a race to the bottom model that puts our communities and workers at risk everyday," said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN.

The City Council is expected to vote on a bill by the end of the month that would finally reform the industry by limiting the number of haulers that can pick up commercial waste in each zone to three, ending the current free-for-all with as many as 50 private carting companies racing through the streets to collect trash from their business clients, and hopefully cutting down on cut-throat competition by overworked, barely regulated truck drivers.

The FDNY said it is not investigating the incident, nor did it suspend Blakenship, who was off-duty at the time.

Bashar crash report page 1
bashar page 2
bashar page 3

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