Brooklyn DA Declines To Prosecute Driver Who Killed 10-Year-Old Boy, Infuriating His Grieving Family
The Brooklyn District Attorney has decided to not charge the driver who killed a 10-year-old boy waiting at a bus stop in Midwood last year, saying the driver suffered a medical episode and therefore can’t be held criminally responsible — a decision the victim’s family and their lawyer say is devastating.
“The family disagrees with the conclusion,” said personal injury attorney Leslie Kelmachter. “This is a profound case with profound loss to the family and the family is not satisfied with the explanation provided by the District Attorney’s office.”
At about 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2019, the driver, 59-year-old Alexander Katchaloff, was heading north on Ocean Avenue when he “veered to the right,” hopped the curb, and fatally struck little Enzo Farachio, who was standing on the sidewalk near Avenue L, waiting for the bus to get home after school.
Katchaloff, who behind the wheel of a grey Lexus SUV — which at the time had racked up four tickets for speeding in a school zone — then plowed into an Ocean Avenue building, causing the scaffolding to come crashing down.
the vehicle involved in the death of a 10-year-old has gotten FOUR school zone speed camera violations https://t.co/auwr8OxYVl
— zainab iqbal (@planetzainab) September 11, 2019
A spokesman for District Attorney Eric Gonzalez says Katchaloff suddenly lost consciousness due to what’s called syncope. He fractured his leg, and his passenger, his 8-year-old daughter who had been sitting in the rear passenger seat, suffered minor injuries in the crash, according to the DA. (See the crash below.)
But Kelmachter blasted the DA for citing syncope as the reason the driver lost control. Usually syncope is a symptom of a greater medical problem, not the cause.
“Syncope just meant he felt faint — if that’s the excuse, people don’t feel faint without a reason. It’s insufficient,” said Kelmachter. “I deal with medical records everyday and syncope in and of itself is not a medical diagnosis; it’s an occurrence, and it’s one that there’s a reason or not, and we don’t know the reason.” (The District Attorney’s office failed to provide any further explanation.)
What’s more, Kelmachter says, video obtained by her firm appears to show the driver speed up to beat a red light before he lost control of the car and fatally struck the boy.
“The video is very clear — he was racing against a light,” she said. “We don’t know why the DA made the decision not to prosecute. We have viewed the video and in our estimation there is clearly a basis for prosecution.”
The video begins as traffic on Avenue L begins to move as the light has turned green. A pedestrian, crossing Ocean Avenue legally in the crosswalk, begins walking at the right of the frame. She is almost struck by the driver of a silver car that inches slowly into the crosswalk. The driver then speeds up through the intersection and against the light, before slamming into a scaffolding (top left corner of the video), killing Enzo Farachio.
Kelmachter plans a civil suit against the driver.
Gonzalez’s office maintains it was unable to sustain criminal charges against the driver, because unlike in the case of 44-year-old Dorothy Bruns — who drove through a red light in Park Slope in 2018, killing 20-month-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein, and injured their mothers — this particular driver was apparently never told by a doctor not to drive.
Prosecutors say Bruns suffered from multiple sclerosis and had a history of seizures, but indicted her on multiple charges, including manslaughter and homicide, claiming she ignored doctors’ orders when she drove on March 5, 2018. Bruns killed herself before facing trial.
“An extensive investigation into this tragic case determined that the driver suffered a syncope (temporary loss of consciousness) at the time of the fatal collision. His conduct wasn’t intentional or reckless and he was obeying all traffic laws prior to the medical episode,” said a DA spokesman. “A review of his medical records found that, unlike in the case of Dorothy Bruns, he was never instructed not to drive. Accordingly, there were no viable criminal charges.”
Multiple attempts to reach Katchaloff on Tuesday were unsuccessful — he previously declined to comment to Streetsblog last year, when the investigation was pending.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles will hold a hearing at a to-be-determined date about whether Katchaloff will have his license revoked.