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AG Tish James Will Review Hit-And-Run Crash that Killed Delivery Worker as Cops Go Silent

4:49 PM EDT on July 12, 2021

Borkot Ullah

Police have still not made an arrest in the hit-and-run killing of Borkot Ullah on Thursday — even though cops were chasing the reckless driver seconds before he ran the red light on busy Houston Street and slammed into the delivery worker. And now the state Attorney General is on the case.

It's hard to believe that police have not collared the driver of the black Subaru Outback who killed Ullah last week, given that a video exclusively obtained by Streetsblog showed that police were already in pursuit of the driver when he sped through the intersection of Clinton Street, hit Ullah, and kept driving towards the FDR Drive.

On Friday, agency spokeswoman Det. Sophia Mason said only that "the circumstances of the pre-collision fact pattern are under full review." Police have declined to comment since, except to confirm that no one has been arrested in this silver-platter case. A law enforcement source told Streetsblog that state Attorney General Letitia James's office has begun a review of this case because of the police involvement in the crash — a move that's common when police are accused in a fatal shooting, but quite rare in crashes.

Borkot Ullah
Borkot Ullah before his death to a hit-and-run driver.

Ullah was a member of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a social justice organization of working class South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans. The organization posted about his death on Instagram and questioned the NYPD's involvement, saying, "We currently don't know why the NYPD was pursuing the speeding car."

Meanwhile, grieving friends of Ullah have raised thousands of dollars to send his body back to his native Bangladesh.

The GoFundMe page, which has raised close to $25,000, described Borkot was an asylum seeker, who fled Bangladesh to escape "political repression and targeting." His job as a delivery worker helped support his family both here and in Bangladesh, even through the "extreme financial hardship" that he experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Desis Rising Up and Moving, Ullah would frequently join ride for justice for the many exploited workers in the city.

The manner in which Ullah was killed again raises questions about whether police should conduct high-speed chases in dense urban areas. A 2017 study of the prior decade revealed that roughly one person a day is killed during a police chases. USA Today found in 2015 that at least 11,506 people had been killed in police pursuits since 1979. The organization Pursuit Safety found in 2016 that more than one-third of the deaths in pursuits were innocent bystanders.

The NYPD has in the past killed people in crashes and then covered it up. Last year, the Daily News reported that the NYPD did not say that officers were pursuing two suspects in a high-speed chase before the couple crashed their motorcycle and died. Just as in the death of Borkot Ullah, the truth only came out after video of the crash was uncovered by reporters.

The AG's involvement stems from state law that created an Office of Special Investigation within the AG's office to “investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any alleged criminal offense or offenses committed by a person, whether or not formally on duty, who is a police officer … concerning any incident in which the death of a person, whether in custody or not.”

— with Gersh Kuntzman

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