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Every Parent’s Nightmare: Child Killed by NYPD Tow Truck Driver in Brooklyn

A small boy was struck and killed by a police officer driving a tow truck early on Thursday near Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, witnesses said.

Photo: David Meyer|

The victim’s kick scooter was still at the scene hours later.

A small boy was struck and killed by a police officer recklessly driving a tow truck early on Thursday near Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, witnesses said.

Witnesses and the NYPD told Streetsblog that a mother was walking while her 7-year-old son rode a green kick scooter west on Myrtle Avenue at around 7:45 a.m. when the tow truck driver struck the child as the driver made a right onto N. Portland Avenue — and kept on going.

"They had the light to go. The truck just busted and just kept going," said one witness, who declined to give her name.

"The tow truck turned, and then she dragged him down the block. The bitch was on the phone."

The victim's kick scooter was still at the scene hours later.Photo: David Meyer

Another witness, Antwoan Hayes, said the tow truck driver was speeding and was on her phone, a detail confirmed by multiple witnesses. The driver only stopped when a NYCHA employee stood in front of the truck about 100 feet from the scene of the fatal crash, said Hayes.

"I heard a [smack], then I heard her scream, 'They killed my baby,'" Hayes said, adding that the driver dragged the child far down the block. "She tried to keep going. She ate that light and she was speeding. ... The mother was screaming, 'They killed my baby!' That's what she kept screaming: 'They killed my baby!'"

Parking in that space is legal because New York City exempts itself from a state law requiring daylighting at every corner. There was a car in that space at the time of the crash.

"It's a bright-ass fucking day and the truck turned right into them," another witness added. The view of the intersection from the cab of the truck would have been partially obscured because a car driver had parked right up to, and partially into, the crosswalk. State law bars drivers from parking up to the corner, but New York City exempts itself from that law to create more parking spaces.

Read our investigation by clicking here.Graphic: Martin Schapiro

The child, Kamari Hughes, was taken to nearby Brooklyn Hospital, where he died, police said. Hughes was a former student at nearby Northside Center for child development, where his mother still works, neighbor Tyrana Carter told reporters at the scene.

"The little boy was energetic, full of life," Carter recalled. "He liked to play in the park, he liked to run around, he liked to play tag." Another neighbor described Kamari as a "good little kid" who loved gymnastics and doing backflips.

An NYPD spokesperson on the scene said the driver is a 54-year-old traffic enforcement agent. The traffic enforcement unit has been under NYPD leadership for decades. Previously, it was a Department of Transportation unit.

Council Member Crystal Hudson, who will appear at a meeting later today with opponents of Vision Zero, arrived at the scene and was spotted at the scene talking to police officers with Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks.

Hudson, with backpack, talks to residents, cops and Deputy Mayor Phil Banks (with sunglasses).

It is likely that the child was on his way to school at the time of the crash. As Streetsblog reported last year, streets around schools are far more dangerous during pickup and drop-off hours. That investigation uncovered 78 crashes around the nearest school in just five years and only on days when school was in session. Those crashes injured 17 people.

Julie Sharpton, a representative of the tenants association of the Whitman Houses, said residents of the NYCHA apartment buildings are angry and wanted Mayor Adams to visit the scene. NYPD truck drivers often take the narrow two-way street to get to the department's tow pound on nearby Navy Street.

"We need speed bumps. We need school crossing guards," Sharpton said. "We've got to stop waiting until tragedy happens before we start doing what's necessary, not in some communities, in every community."

The tow truck in Thursday's crash was indeed towing away a car.

"They [tow trucks] come through a lot, especially around 6 to 8 a.m.," said another neighborhood resident, who gave the name Reem, who had just dropped off his daughter. "This is a tragedy. It's a loving community. My daughter goes to school right up the street. It could have been her."

As a matter of city safety, tow trucks do perform a valuable role. The car being towed during Thursday's incident had an Oklahoma plate — and a long record of reckless driving that includes 11 camera-issued speeding tickets and one camera-issued red-light ticket.

Hudson echoed her constituents' concerns about tow trucks, but also broadened her comments to suggest that she supports efforts to make roadways safer.

"There seems to have maybe been a pattern of the tow trucks coming down this block in particular (and) speeding, driving recklessly," Hudson told Streetsblog.

Asked if she'll bring up the crash at the anti-Vision Zero meeting later, Hudson said she would because the fatality "certainly provides perspective to a lot of the initiatives that the DOT is trying to bring forth. ... We need to make sure that we're investing in the right places."

Her official statement after the crash focused solely on the fact that the driver was a police employee, rather than on the changes she'd like to see DOT make to the city's dangerous roads:

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso focused on the need to stop "senseless traffic violence on our streets.”

Hudson's district is indeed a place of senseless traffic violence.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 22, there were 1,640 reported crashes in just the district alone, nearly six per day, according to city stats. Those crashes injured 840 people, including 161 pedestrians and 161 cyclists. That's about three injuries every day.

Residents of the neighborhood have a long history of opposing street safety measures, and, partly as a result, the district ranks 31st out of 51 Council districts for protected bike lanes, according to data crunched by MIT and Transportation Alternatives.

The crash occurred on the same day that the City Council and Adams administration have allowed the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program — which provided a safety course for drivers with 15 camera-issued speeding tickets in a year — to expire. There is no replacement for the program, created by then-Council Member Brad Lander, who called today for it to be reauthorized and strengthened.

Mayor Adams is aware of the crash, reporters at an unrelated event said. The Adams administration is in the process of cutting hundreds of crossing guard positions.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported the wrong name for the victim based on incorrect information provided by the NYPD.

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