Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Carnage

NYPD Driver Who Killed Man on Eastern Parkway is Placed on Modified Duty

Here’s the intersection where Ronald Smith was killed by a police van driver. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The police officer who was driving the NYPD vehicle that fatally struck a man on Eastern Parkway last week after allegedly speeding and running a red light has been placed on modified duty — and the Internal Affairs Bureau has taken over the case, Streetsblog has learned.

In addition, the state Attorney General has opened a review.

The NYPD would not provide any details of the crash that killed Ronald Smith, 53, on April 7, nor would the agency give the name of the officer, or any information about what "modified" duty means. Experts say it means that he has been placed on desk duty and may have surrendered his gun and shield.

"The investigation remains ongoing by both Force Investigation Division and Collision Investigation Squad," a police spokesperson said. "The officer is modified."

Meanwhile, Attorney General Letitia James has opened an investigation, which is standard in any case where police are involved in a civilian death under state executive law, Section 70-b. The AG's Office of Special Investigation is required to assess every time a law enforcement official "may have caused the death of a person, by an act or omission." The office's initial assessment may lead to a full state investigation, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Police have declined to answer questions about the suspicious crash, even after a witness claimed that the police van was speeding as it rushed to get through the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue at around 8 p.m. Damage to the vehicle suggests a high-speed crash.

The police claimed that Smith was "standing within the center median of Eastern Parkway," but would not say how the officer struck him if he was, indeed, not in the travel lanes of the roadway.

A relative of the victim reached out to Streetsblog after other media outlets called Smith homeless.

"I am this man's sister," said J. Floyd. "He has family, and he is loved."

No one was present at the last known address for Smith, which is a flophouse in Ozone Park, Queens. (No one was home when Streetsblog visited, nor has anyone responded to a note left on the door.)

The last known address of Ronald Smith. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The last known address of Ronald Smith. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The last known address of Ronald Smith. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It is common for the NYPD to provide almost no details — or to give out erroneous information — about crashes involving police officers, and truths often only come out in the event of a lawsuit by victims' families. When Ryo Oyamada was run over by a speeding cop in 2017, police initially claimed the driver had his flashing lights on and was not speeding; evidence later showed that the lights were off and the officer had been speeding.

"The IAB swoops in whenever a cop kills someone," said Steve Vaccaro, the Oyamada family lawyer. "Their job is to protect the agency."

Council Member Crystal Hudson had issued a blistering statement that demanded that the officer in question be terminated, not modified. A spokesman for the lawmaker said she has not received any response from the NYPD.

When you really drill down into the hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements that the city pays out to victims, you really start to see the damage done by city workers using city fleet vehicles — specifically workers in NYPD uniforms. First, motor vehicle settlements comprise the largest share (67 percent) of city payouts:

Vehicle crashes were responsible for 67 percent of the city's payouts in 2020. Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Vehicle crashes were responsible for 67 percent of the city's payouts in 2020. Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Vehicle crashes were responsible for 67 percent of the city's payouts in 2020. Graphic: Comptroller's Office

Those payouts add up to a lot of money, roughly $142 million in 2020:

Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office

The NYPD is particularly expensive for the city:

Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office

And here's how the NYPD's settlements break down. Obviously, police brutality is far more costly to the city, but vehicles are a notable second:

Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office
Graphic: Comptroller's Office

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Friday’s Headlines: Hochul’s Fantasy World Edition

The governor has gone off the deep end. Plus other news.

July 19, 2024

Speaker Adams: Council May Not Use its ‘Sammy’s Law’ Power to Lower Speed Limits

The Council may not lower the speed limit, even though it fought so hard to get that very right from the state legislature.

July 19, 2024

Parks Dept. Has Money But No Timeline to Finish Eastern Queens Greenway

There's tens of millions of dollars for the greenway, so when will parks build it?

July 19, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines: Paris is a Lot Cooler than NYC Edition

The City of Light has figured out how to reduce the heat island effect. Plus other news in today's daily digest.

July 18, 2024

Exclusive: Legal Team Announced for Suit Against Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Attorneys from three firms have inked a joint defense agreement to fight "the governor’s illegal decision to cancel congestion pricing," Comptroller Brad Lander said.

July 17, 2024
See all posts