NYPD Blames Two Victims For Their Own Deaths, Tells Pedestrians to Be Careful
12:12 PM EST on January 16, 2020
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A top cop in the NYPD blamed the victims of two fatal crashes hours apart on Thursday morning in a clear attempt to exonerate drivers — including one who struck a victim and fled.
Police Department Deputy Chief Charles Scholl of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South blamed two women for their deaths, telling mainstream media outlets that they had not been "careful" before the wheels of multi-ton vehicles rolled over their bodies.
The first incident occurred Thursday morning at about 4 a.m., when cops say a hit-and-run driver in a private sanitation truck was heading east on the notoriously dangerous 86th Street when he struck 67-year-old Deborah Mutell as she “crossed mid-block” at Bay Parkway before fleeing. Police said they had no details on the truck, yet were somehow able to say the woman had been crossing mid-block, though admitted that police were still reviewing surveillance footage from nearby stores.
But Scholl quickly absolved the driver, telling PIX11 News at the scene in Bensonhurst that the trucker "may not know this happened." Evidence, however, suggests that the driver did know: NYPD spokeswoman Det. Annette Shelton later told Streetsblog that the truck “came to a rest at the intersection” before its driver fled.
That said, Shelton would not provide any information about how police knew the victim crossed mid-block or whether the driver had been speeding or whether he was distracted by a phone. Even Scholl later admits during the interview that he doesn't actually know whether the fatal crash happened mid-block.
"I don't know where this happened, if it happened mid-block, we encourage all people, as we did years ago to 'cross at the green not in between,' cross at corners, not mid-block," he told PIX11.
Transportation Alternatives offered up a stinging indictment against Scholl's victim-blaming narratives, accusing him of treating the victims of fatal crashes differently only because their killers were drivers.
Woman fatally struck by truck in Brooklyn #hitandrun. Here’s my live interview on the scene with Dep. Chief Chuck Scholl who says the driver may not have even known what happened: @PIX11News https://t.co/FNZn3UWqvx— RebeccaSolomonTV (@RebeccaRSolomon) January 16, 2020
“We encourage pedestrians at that time of the morning to be very cautious. It’s not light out yet,” Scholl said, without offering any advice to drivers to slow down or be acutely aware of their surroundings. Oh, and he did not say anything about the legal responsibility of drivers to remain at the scene of crashes.
In fact, Scholl's performance might be better described as victim-shaming rather than law enforcement. When asked about the hit-and-run truck driver, Scholl couldn't even work up any outrage about the crime.
"We encourage him, if he does discover he was involved, please let us know," the polite chief told WPIX reporter Rebecca Solomon, before going on to again blame pedestrians. "And to the people, the pedestrians and people, be cautious that time of morning.”
Solomon appeared surprised by the answer and pressed Scholl, "What message would you give to drivers?" First, there was a long pause. And then he said:
Uhhh, every day we say we’re vision zero. They have to be cautious, sometimes these are preventable especially when they’re making left hands turns. ... But in this situation, the pedestrians also have to be cautious. ... We encourage all people as we did years ago to cross at the green not in between, cross at corners, not midblock.”
Sometimes these are preventable?
One local was not surprised by the fatal hit-and-run at the corner of 86th Street and Bay Parkway, telling Streetsblog in an e-mail that there are constantly less-serious crashes at that intersection — many of which don't get reported. Last year, there were 93 crashes on 86th Street between 21st and 23rd avenues, which are on either side of Bay Parkway, injuring one cyclist, eight pedestrians and 15 motorists. A year earlier, there were 104 crashes on just those two blocks, injuring one cyclist, three pedestrians and 10 motorists. That's 197 crashes in just two years on two blocks. By comparison, a two-block stretch of Bay Ridge Avenue on either side of commercial Fourth Avenue in the adjacent neighborhood had 76 crashes over the same time period, injuring nine pedestrians and 10 motorists.
And about five hours later, Scholl showed up at another fatal crash site — this time at the corner of Flatlands and Flatbush Avenue — where another woman was killed by the driver of an MTA bus.
“At this time, it appears it is no fault of the operator of the city bus. It’s another tragedy of people not being careful and putting themselves in harm's way,” Scholl told the Daily News. "It’s another tragic loss of life but it’s definitely something that could’ve been avoided.”
The initial police report suggested that the woman had fallen after exiting a B41 bus and was "struck by that same bus" at about 9 a.m. Later, police said a preliminary investigation revealed that the woman, whose name has not yet been released, forced her way out of the back door, and "struck a wooden utility pole, which forced her under the bus." The bus driver remained on the scene, police said.
But despite Scholl's own victim-blaming and preliminary details, acting MTA bus division president said in a statement that the investigation remains ongoing and no conclusions should be reached about what happened.
"NYC Transit and NYPD investigations into what happened, how, and why are in the early stages, so any conclusions as to cause would be inappropriately speculative at this time," said Craig Cipriano.
The two women are at least the seventh and eighth people killed by drivers so far this year, and the fifth in Brooklyn. In Scholl's Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, which is made up of 13 precincts, including the ones where both of Thursday's fatalities occurred, there were a total of 33,564 crashes in 2019 — that's 92 per day — resulting in 10,396 injuries, 10 cyclist fatalities, and 20 pedestrians fatalities, according to Crash Mapper.
Julianne Cuba joined Streetsblog in February, 2019, after three years covering local news and politics at The Brooklyn Paper. There, she also covered the notoriously reckless private carting industry and hit-and-runs. A 2015 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism Master’s Program, she lives in Brooklyn. Julianne is on Twitter at @julcuba. Email Julianne at firstname.lastname@example.org
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