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UPDATE: Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Brooklyn Senior on Speedway Atlantic Avenue

8:28 AM EDT on June 1, 2021

The scene of Monday night’s crash. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

Leonard Mitchell was in the Moon Palace Deli hours before his death.
Leonard Mitchell was in the Moon Palace Deli hours before his death.
Leonard Mitchell was in the Moon Palace Deli hours before his death.

A Brooklyn man was struck and left for dead by a driver late on Monday night a few feet from his home on Atlantic Avenue, a wide roadway that becomes a speedway in the wee hours.

Police said Leonard Mitchell, 70, was crossing Atlantic between Third and Nevins avenues at around 11 p.m. on Memorial Day when he was struck by the driver of a "dark-colored sedan" traveling east bound on the roadway.

The driver fled.

Mitchell was taken to Brooklyn Hospital, where he died.

Police released no other information, but a video obtained by Streetsblog from a nearby pizzeria shows the moment when Mitchell — who was known as "Mitch" in the neighborhood — was struck.

At timestamp 22:53:12, the car enters the frame and strikes Mitchell as he attempts to cross the roadway. Mitchell and his walker end up against the curb near the tree pit.

The driver paused briefly, then fled as witnesses rushed over:

The crash is reminiscent of so many other fatal collisions on Atlantic. In late 2020, a drunk driver killed Alina Morales at about the same location as yesterday's crash. That driver was charged. But drivers were not held accountable in in 2015, when Muyassar Moustapha, 66, was killed along Atlantic, near Clinton Street, nor when earlier this year, when Michael Williams, 45, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in the Crown Heights section of the roadway.

Atlantic Avenue has been the bane of street safety activists for more than a decade. Though the de Blasio administration reduced the speed limit on the roadway in 2014 as one of its first Vision Zero projects, it was never truly tamed. It remains, as Streetsblog called it in 2014, "an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway."

A tangle of wires is all that remains of what neighbors said was a pedestrian-crossing signal that was toppled by a speeding vehicle several months ago. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
A tangle of wires is all that remains of what neighbors said was a pedestrian-crossing signal that was toppled by a speeding vehicle several months ago. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
A tangle of wires is all that remains of what neighbors said was a pedestrian-crossing signal that was toppled by a speeding vehicle several months ago. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

Speeding motorists often destroy pedestrian-safety infrastructure on the dangerous road. About a half block away from where the hit-and-run driver mowed down Mitchell, a tangle of wires is all that remains of what neighbors said was a pedestrian-crossing signal. Neighbors told Streetsblog that a vehicle had hit and destroyed the signal a couple of months  ago, but the Department of Transportation had yet to replace the life-saving device.

Leonard Mitchell
Leonard Mitchell
Leonard Mitchell

Mitchell, who lived in the nearby Muhlenberg Community Housing Development, a residence for low-income, single adults, was well-known in the neighborhood, where the shock of his killing reverberated.

"He was a good man and friendly," said his neighbor, Robert Jackson, who heard what sounded like two cars crashing and was horrified to find Mitchell "in a pool of blood."

The Muhlenberg facility would not allow Streetsblog entrance. A staffer at the desk simply said, "They don't want us to talk about it."

"Everybody living here is single," said Mitchell's neighbor Billy Adams, who was standing outside the building. "Somebody from the building will [notify] his next of kin, and give them a time to come and collect his things."

Police on Tuesday checked dark sedans like the vehicle that killed Mitchell on Atlantic Avenue. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
Police on Tuesday checked dark sedans like the vehicle that killed Mitchell on Atlantic Avenue. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
Police on Tuesday checked dark sedans like the vehicle that killed Mitchell on Atlantic Avenue. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

The NYPD set up what officers described as a "safety checkpoint" on the corner of the crash, where they appeared to be stopping dark sedans that fit the description of the car that killed Mitchell.

From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven. Since then? Two cyclists, 17 pedestrians and seven motorists — 26 people — have been killed on the same stretch in eight-and-a-half years, from a reported 18,165 crashes, or roughly six crashes per day.

In 2019*, along just the 1.25-mile stretch between the BQE and Flatbush Avenue, there were 435 reported crashes (more than one per day), injuring nine cyclists, 20 pedestrians and 74 motorists.

* Streetsblog is using 2019 as the last full statistical year because the pandemic of 2020 skewed crash numbers.

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