Grieving Family Horrified by ‘Not Guilty’ Plea By Driver Who Killed Beloved Delivery Worker
Carlos Garcia-Ramos was 18 when said goodbye to his mother in Mexico’s impoverished Guerrero state in 2002. He never saw her again.
But she saw him one more time — or at least she saw his body in the morgue at Bellevue Hospital, the last link in a chain of events that led from the town of Xochihuehuetlan to his death at the hands of a reckless, possibly drunk, hit-and-run driver on Dec. 4 on W. 24th Street.
And now, beyond the incalculable grief she and her surviving children are feeling, they are also bereft at the aftermath — confused that the driver who killed Carlos is facing only a charge of leaving the scene of the crash, angered that the pizzeria where Carlos worked considered him an independent contractor not eligible for worker’s comp despite six years of service, stunned that the driver had New York’s bare minimum of insurance coverage of just $50,000 in the case of a death, enraged that he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and frustrated that the Manhattan DA’s office and the NYPD has not communicated any information.
“We can’t understand any of this,” said Jose Armando Garcia, 27, the victim’s younger brother.
The driver who cops say struck and killed Carlos, Edgar Maeda-Luca, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Jan. 11 to the charge of leaving the scene, a felony that does carry a top charge of six years in jail, but rarely leads to significant jail time. The siblings don’t understand why the driver was not also charged with the recklessness or carelessness or mere indifference that led to Carlos’s death, or for the alleged drunk driving, given that officers told them at the hospital that the driver was inebriated.
“He struck my brother from behind at a high speed,” Jose said. “He should be charged with that, too. And why was he never tested for being drunk?”
According to police, Maeda-Luca, 23, was driving eastbound on W. 24th Street between Ninth and Eighth avenues in the early morning of Dec. 4, and Garcia-Ramos was ahead of him, making a delivery for Joe’s Pizza, as he did one night out of his six-days-a-week work schedule. At some point near Eighth Avenue, Maeda-Luca overtook the 38-year-old cyclist, striking the rear of his bicycle and sending him flying into a parked car. Cops added that Maeda-Luca kept driving — Garcia-Ramos’s bicycle still embedded in the front of his 2014 gray Infiniti — to the corner of Seventh Avenue, where he abandoned the car and fled on foot.
He lives on that very block and was later arrested by officers from the 10th Precinct. At his arraignment last week, he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $100,000 bail. Never mentioned was the alleged drunk driving or the fact that Maeda-Luca’s car had been slapped with six speed-camera violations and one red light ticket in the 17 months before the crash.
In fact, city records show that he received a speeding ticket in Manhattan 20 minutes before cops responded to the 911 call of a man, Garcia-Ramos, dying on the pavement of W. 24th Street. The speed camera that nabbed Maeda-Luca was on 10th Avenue and 22nd Street, just two blocks from the crash site.
That didn’t come up at the arraignment either.
If Maeda-Luca was indeed drunk as cops told the Garcia-Ramos family, he may not charged with drunk driving because he fled the crime scene, allowing him to sober up a bit before he was arrested. Many advocates and law enforcement officials have pointed out the flaw in New York State law that encourages drunk drivers to flee the scene of a crash because the punishment for fleeing is lower than the punishment for being caught driving drunk.
Maeda-Luca’s insurance company has already offered the family the maximum amount of the coverage: $50,000. Lawyers say the damage to the family could have earned them a six-figure settlement, but there’s no way to get any compensation from a reckless driver who himself has no significant assets.
Lawyer Eric Malinowski, who is helping the Garcia-Ramos family with the insurance company and the state Workers’ Compensation Board, said the family’s options are limited. He’ll apply for the workers’ comp death benefit of $50,000, but the pizzeria doesn’t have workers’ comp and considered Carlos an independent contractor, even though he’d worked there for six years, rising from full-time delivery worker to kitchen worker trusted enough to have a set of keys to the restaurant. Malinowski, of the law firm of Camacho Mauro, predicted a long, slow process.
“He came here for a better life,” Martin Garcia, 40, told Streetsblog. “And now he’s dead, and the man who killed him is out on bail.
“We just want justice,” Martin added.
(Maeda-Luca’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. The Garcia family has set up a GoFundMe page to seek donations.)