Hit-and-Run Victim Says Police Blamed Him for Being Struck by a Driver
12:01 AM EDT on June 21, 2021
Cops blamed the victim of a hit-and-run crash last month, erroneously claiming he walked into a turning car outside a station house in Queens where cops routinely and dangerously block the sidewalks and crosswalks with their parked squad cars and private vehicles.
Flushing resident Tim Burke told Streetsblog that on May 14, he was walking near the 103rd Precinct when a driver smashed right into him, roughing him up and spraining his ankle. Burke blamed not only the driver, but also 103rd Precinct cops, who make it impossible to walk safely around their haphazardly parked cars.
“I work right around the corner from the 103rd Precinct. There’s a crosswalk there, but there’s always police cars parked in it,” said Burke. “I got hit.”
Burke said he was walking south on 168th Street just before 9 a.m. when he had to veer outside of the marked crosswalk, which was blocked by at least three police cars, as he tried to cross at 91st Avenue.
Then, Burke said, a driver — whose line of sight also was blocked by the illegally parked cars — hit Burke as the driver attempted to turn north onto 168th Street.
Burke says the car that hit him was not a squad car, and he did not recognize the driver. The driver stopped momentarily before fleeing, but Burke said he was too stunned to jot down the license-plate number.
“There was a car going to make a right turn, it had to move up a bit because there was another car parked on the corner. Unfortunately, I was in front of the car at the time — I got hit,” he said. “It was not possible for me to go any other way based on where the cars were.”
Burke went to work, but returned to the precinct a few hours later to file a report and see if the cops had any video of the collision. That’s when things went south, he said.
Burke said the cops reflexively defended the unidentified driver, and didn't even know that there was a crosswalk right outside the station house. After Burke pointed that out, the officer again defended the driver, saying that, because Burke wasn't in the crosswalk, he had caused the crash.
“The officer said, ‘What crosswalk?’ Looking back, I can understand why he didn't know a crosswalk was there, you can’t even tell a street is there because there’s so many cars parked in it," Burke said.
The officer also retrieved a video, which Burke says showed exactly what he said had happened, but the cop refused to give to him, telling him to file a Freedom of Information request.
"He comes back with a video on the phone and he goes, ‘You weren't in the crosswalk.’ I said, ‘You’re right, there's two cars blocking the crosswalk, I couldn't physically be in the crosswalk,’” said Burke.
Adding insult to injury, once Burke finally got his hands on the police report six days later, it blamed him.
"When the pedestrian who was walking southbound on 168th Street walked in front vehicle causing vehicle to collide with him...," according to the official "Police Accident" report Burke shared with Streetsblog.
“He wrote that I caused the vehicle to collide. I was completely infuriated. Are you kidding me? I wasn’t trying to make a big deal out of it, but then they go and say it’s my fault,” Burke said.
A diagram of the collision also left out the illegally parked cars.
Since January 2019, there have been 5,468 reported crashes in the 103rd, injuring 105 cyclists and 355 pedestrians and killing six pedestrians, according to Crash Mapper.
Burke's crash is only the latest in which police officers have blamed the victims of crashes, including fatal ones. In 2019, police initially blamed a 62-year-old worker, Abul Bashar, for his own death, claiming he was riding his e-bike on the sidewalk when he was run over and killed by a private sanitation-truck driver in Gowanus. But cops later secretly amended the official police report to say Bashar was riding in the street and traveling with a green light when he was fatally run over.
Earlier that year, cops similarly blamed 20-year-old cyclist Robyn Hightman for their own death, too, telling Gothamist that maybe they would still be alive if they had used the bike lane (Hightman used "they/them" pronouns). In January 2020, then-Deputy Chief Charles Scholl of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South blamed two women for their deaths just hours apart, telling mainstream media outlets that they had not been “careful.”
Cops famously and illegally park their squad cars and private vehicles in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and in bike lanes, putting vulnerable road users in danger, as detailed in Streetsblog’s March "Parking Madness" contest. Brooklyn Council Member Steve Levin recently introduced a bill that seeks to ends cops' illegal parking by creating a citizen-enforcement program for reporting placard abuse. But the de Blasio administration opposes the bill.
The public has noticed. A poll conducted last month for Streetsblog’s parent company, Open Plans, asked: “Should cops be able to park their cars on the sidewalk during non-emergencies?”
Of the 591 likely Democratic primary voters who responded (margin of error is plus/minus 4 percent):
- 63 percent said they oppose cops parking on the sidewalk.
- Of those, 47 percent were “strongly opposed,” while only 15 percent “strongly support” this entitlement for officers.
- Only 30 percent of respondents said they were OK with the practice.
- Women are far more opposed to the practice than men (68 percent opposition compared to 57 percent opposition).
As part of an analysis that looked at crashes from the start of 2018 until right before the pandemic in 2020, Streetsblog found that on precincts that face a public street:
- 70 precincts had a higher number of crashes on the precinct block than on either of the side streets directly on either side of the station house. Only four precincts in the entire city — the 62nd in Bensonhurst, the 90th in Greenpoint, and the Fifth and 23rd in Manhattan — had fewer crashes on the block in front of the station house.
- In Queens, the average precinct block also had more than triple the crashes (232 percent more) than the blocks on either side of the station house.
The NYPD claims it is doing better.
“Commanding officers at locations across the city are always working to better address this condition," said Sgt. Jessica McRorie in a statement to Streetsblog.
Burke only suffered a sprained ankle, but it's only a matter of time before someone gets killed if the cops don't move their cars, according to an attorney familiar with the matter.
"It’s a real blessing he was not more seriously injured because of the risk of these officers. It’s the same behavior all over — police taking over property, barricading streets, blocking fire hydrants, and the great irony here is that police are supposed to be the force of law and order, but they’ve shown themselves to be an agent of absolute chaos on our streets that puts people at risk," said Peter Beadle, an attorney with Vaccaro and White. “We see an epidemic around the city with the police just overtly flouting the rules and abusing the powers with placards. Parking vehicles in a marked crosswalk is sort of the most in your face — it puts people in so much risk and is simply unacceptable."
Burke said he doesn't plan to take any legal action; he just wants cops to move their cars.
"My goal is just moving the cars out of the way so the area is a lot safer. It's a disaster waiting to happen," he said.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
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 email@example.com
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