Our blog has reported on the seeming unwillingness of the New York Police Department to ticket or charge drivers who cause injury or death because of their negligence. However, the death of a retired police officer on Thanksgiving Day showed that at least in some cases, officers are willing to issue charges.
The driver first hit a vehicle stopped at a red light, careened off that car and then hit the retired officer, who was about to get into her minivan after buying a newspaper near the intersection of Pennsylvania and Stanley avenues in East New York.
The devastation caused by the 24-year-old driver did not end there. After causing the fatal crash, he then ran into another minivan, causing a chain reaction that involved two other cars. At least 12 people were injured during the rampage, according to a prosecutor.
Charges After the Crash
The driver faces multiple charges that include second-degree manslaughter. He left the scene of the second crash, but didn’t get far before officers arrested him. In addition to running from both crashes, he reportedly tried to grab the guns of the officers guarding him while he was being treated at a nearby hospital for injuries. Other charges include attempted robbery, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct.
Driver Recently Released From Hospital
According to news reports, the driver had apparently been hospitalized for a psychotic break and had been on medication before being released. However, it appears that he was released without medication. A post-accident blood test revealed no drugs or alcohol in his system.
The officer killed in the incident, Yvette Molina, had worked for the NYPD for 25 years, retiring in 2008. Much of her career had been spent at the 77th Precinct, in Crown Heights. The death leaves a big hole in the family of Ms. Molina, who was one of seven children of Honduran immigrants and the first born in the United States.
Questions of Liability
Her death also raises important questions of liability. Could the hospital that released the driver be held liable for releasing him without medication, if that is indeed what happened? If he had been taking his medication, would he have been driving so recklessly? The legal process may be able to answer questions such as these, but the answers will not do much to address the grief that the retired officer’s family and friends are suffering today.