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Family of dead Williamsburg cyclist sues NYPD for video footage

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The parents of deceased cyclist Mathieu Lefevre are suing the NYPD for documents they hope will reveal the truth about their son’s death — including a surveillance tape showing the hit-and-run that killed the Williamsburg artist in October.

Grieving parents Alain and Erika Lefevre filed suit in New York State Supreme Court on Dec. 30 after the NYPD denied their freedom of information request for detailed records from the case, including toxicology and autopsy reports, 911 transcripts, and other files. Cops aren’t pressing charges against the driver, but they claim that releasing the documents would interfere with their investigation.

But the family’s lawyer, Steve Vaccaro, says that the disclosure couldn’t possibly jeopardize a nearly closed case, especially one in which police don’t suspect a crime was committed.

“We’ve lost confidence in the NYPD,” Vaccaro said. “We want to be able to see for ourselves what actually happened. The police have backtracked on several things they’ve told us.”

The Lefevres, who live in Canada, filed suit after months of trying to wrestle information from police amid conflicting accounts of the fatal collision.

Lefevre, 30, was riding southbound on Morgan Avenue on Oct. 19 just before midnight when Leonardo Degianni, who was driving a flatbed truck in the same direction, made a right turn on Meserole Street, according to cops. He struck the cyclist and kept going, police records indicate.

Investigators initially ruled the crash an accident after Degianni told cops he didn’t know that he had hit anyone. But an accident report — released only after the Lefevre family rallied at One Police Plaza — showed that Lefevre was actually rear-ended by the trucker.

Last month, the family slammed cops for not collecting key evidence, including Lefevre’s blood and bike paint from the bumper. A detective allegedly said that crime technicians didn’t take a blood sample because they were busy with “more serious crimes” elsewhere. Vaccaro said that police have surveillance footage, taken from a warehouse on Morgan Avenue, that shows exactly what happened that night.

“We want to get it as soon as possible and make sure the NYPD handles it properly,” he said.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit.

Cycling advocates are calling on Commissioner Ray Kelly to let go of the tape, saying the NYPD has an obligation to show mourning families “courtesy, professionalism and respect.”

“It helps them make sense of what are all too often preventable tragedies,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Why should they have to wait or not get as much information as possible?”

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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Reader Feedback

Tibor from Greenpoint says:

"More important crimes elsewhere".
Somebody died.
But he was a slender white
college educated male on a bike,
so it didn't matter.

Jan. 6, 2012, 8:07 am
Moses from Park Slope says:
I find it hard to believe that the family members " are suing the NYPD for documents." nowhere in the story does it actually say what this lawsuit seeks. If it's a wrongful death suit, the family would seek punitive and compensatory cash. Why is that not made clear?
Jan. 6, 2012, 10 am
Ben from Greenpoint says:
sues sues... stop wasting time and tax payers money get a real job will ya??....
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:21 am
S from PPW says:
The family has a right to know what happened to their son. I hope they prevail.
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:57 am
Joe from Greenpoint says:
Some comments imply the writers can't read or have poor reading comprehension.

odi profanum vulgus et arceo
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:16 am
Friday says:
As we allow more non-working people to relocate to NYC from NoWhere, USA...this is what will continuously happen.

They have so much time on their hands, they WILL find a get rich quick scheme Drug dealing or suing the city are emerging as the popular methods of enrichment.

I'm for running background checks on new arrivals buying million dollar condos in the city - without having a job worth $20K a year.

Lets us see who is:
unjustly enriched, has a criminal background, no job at present...then keep an eye on them.
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:49 am
Hoarce from Bushwick says:
@ Moses. Obviously the family is suing the NYPD to compel the disclosure of documents. This is called a motion to compel and is standard in civil practice discovery. As this is not legal journal but a community newspaper, it seems rather obvious to someone familiar with both types publication that the instant article makes that fact rather apparent. Any wrongful death claim would patently be brought against the driver and not the NYPD, but they don't have much ammunition for such a claim until they can see these documents and tapes. I believe the author states explicitly that the family is suing to discover documents.
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:53 am
trans alt from my bike says:
@Ben from GP: I'm sure the parents would rather have their son alive than to be suing NYC.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:35 pm
Lee from PP says:
suing in relay not the solution...
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:48 pm
EKD from PS says:
"A detective allegedly said that crime technicians didn’t take a blood sample because they were busy with “more serious crimes” elsewhere." He DIED, in a hit and run. That's serious.
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:08 pm
Josh from elsewhere says:
It's no secret that people who kill pedestrians or cyclists with their cars usually get off with a slap on the wrist. That means that *every* incident like this should be investigated to be sure it's really an "accident" and not a choice of murder weapons. What crime were they investigating that was more serious than a potential murder case?
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:53 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
Friday: The family, who lives in Canada, is suing the city to compel them to produce the evidence. They're not suing for damages.

Stop foaming at the mouth in the comments before you even read the article, moron.
Jan. 6, 2012, 3:36 pm
manhatposeur from Portlyn Lakes Park says:
Why hsnt anyone tried to scrutinizethis driver? Why is he getting away with this hit-n-run so easily?
Jan. 6, 2012, 4:04 pm
Friday says:
@ Chris: so what do you think the family is going to do with the evidence...frame it? or put it in a box in the attic? C'mon, the writing is on the wall.
Jan. 7, 2012, 6:01 pm
mike from GP says:
@ Friday: Maybe if you lost somebody to a senseless crash like this, you might understand.

The reason to fight for more evidence is to determine the truth, and to potentially prevent future tragedies like this. As of right now, the NYPD's statements are contradictory and deficient.
Jan. 8, 2012, 2 am
Williamsburg TMZ from burg says:
Word on the street was that the guy was a wastoid. Imagine that, an artist, high, riding his bike around Williamsburg at night! The family should have the right to see the traffic video. If, that is, they really want to see their son's death. Uggghh...
Jan. 8, 2012, 2:52 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
Williamsburg TMZ, why don't you stick your "word on the street" up your ass. You have no effing idea what you're talking about.
Jan. 8, 2012, 3:07 pm
Clear eyed from Brooklyn says:


"Word on the street"?
No, "word" coming from those who
did not persue a hit and run that resulted in a death,
So you stupidly try to spread disinformation thinking
that will work. I know who you are, thug.
Brooklyn is changing, and you better start changing too.

Jan. 9, 2012, 1:47 pm
chieu-anh from montreal says:

Thank you for the attention paid to the Lefevre family and their struggle. They are accepting donations for their legal fund here: mathieulefevre.org
Please help us prevail!
Feb. 15, 2012, 11:55 am

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