In search of answers: Residents slam cops, district attorney’s rep for evading inquries about July hit-and-run death

In search of answers: Residents slam cops, district attorney’s rep for evading inquries about July hit-and-run death
Community News Group / Lauren Gill

Locals blasted police and city officials for dodging questions about why the garbage-truck driver who hit and killed a cyclist in Greenpoint on July 22 still hasn’t been charged at a Wednesday community forum, arguing their silence makes it seem like the motorist is getting away with murder.

“We want to know if there’s any consequences for killing somebody with a vehicle even if it’s unintentional,” said Greenpoint resident Sarah Lilley. “We haven’t been told anything.”

Cops and a rep from the district attorney’s office had few answers about nearly seven-week-old hit-and-run death at the 94th Precinct’s Community Council meeting, a monthly event that gives residents a chance to ask about crimes in the neighborhood.

The precinct captain said the nabe’s police force passed the probe to the city-wide accident investigation squad, and a rep for the district attorney’s office, which ultimately decides whether to bring charges, told attendees he didn’t know the case’s specifics and didn’t bring people who do because he didn’t know the topic would come up.

But attendees didn’t buy the excuses, saying it seemed like authorities are letting the Action Carting driver who killed 27-year-old Neftaly Ramirez off the hook.

“I don’t think we got any substantive information. They certainly knew that people were going to bring it up, the police are on Facebook too,” Lilley said. “And we certainly haven’t been given information that would make us feel in any way hopeful that any kind of justice will happen for Neftaly and his family.”

The driver was turning left onto Noble Street from Franklin Street when he struck Ramirez, who was pedaling home from work at pizzeria Paulie Gee’s. Police told reporters in August the motorist isn’t being charged because their investigation found he didn’t know he hit the cyclist, but cops wouldn’t say what evidence they based that decision on.

Their findings were handed over to the district attorney’s office, which hasn’t closed the case, but has yet to charge the driver. A spokesman for the office said the investigation is ongoing, but refused to state what evidence attorneys are waiting on to close it.

Residents grilled the police about why the case hasn’t been shut, which would allow evidence to become public. The 94th Precinct’s commander said he knew little about the probe because it was punted to the crash investigation squad, which then relayed its findings directly to the district attorney’s office.

A rep from the top prosecutor’s office at the meeting said he didn’t know the case’s details either, and offered a vague explanation for why the driver hasn’t been charged.

“When we determine if we’re going forward with any charges, we have to assess if we can prove it in court,” said Courtney Hogg, an assistant district attorney. “If we say it’s a homicide, the first part we have to prove is if that person intended to cause crime. If we can’t prove the elements of the charges, we can’t go forward.”

Hogg said he would bring the lawyers overseeing the case to next month’s meeting and instructed people with questions about the case to contact him so that he could connect them with the appropriate prosecutors in the meantime.

The top prosecutor’s spokesman, however, refused to let the Brooklyn Paper speak to the lawyers handling the case, and would not explain why residents could talk to them, but not journalists.

The 94th Precinct’s commander defended the decision to keep the case open and said the month-and-a-half-old probe is still fresh, claiming investigators are still looking into it.

“It’s fairly new, it’s not that old of a case,” said Captain Peter Rose. “There’s always a rush to close, but no one wants to rush and potentially miss something.”

Two lawyers who specialize in representing cyclists told the Brooklyn Paper in August that it’s not uncommon for the district attorney’s office to keep cases open for months on the grounds that it is continuing to look into them — a tactic that makes it appear there’s a chance charges may still be brought, despite the fact that most evidence is gathered in the hours immediately following any incident.

The officials’ lack of answers about the case at the meeting suggested that drivers can kill cyclists without being held accountable, according to Lilley.

“I think people rightfully want to know if we’re safe riding a bike lawfully on our streets. If someone mows us down, even accidentally, is that going go by the wayside and no one will ever hear about it again?” the Greenpoint resident said. “Because right now that’s basically what it looks like, and it’s very upsetting.”

Police also explained why cops ticketed cyclists at the intersection where Ramirez was killed in the days following his death, saying they issued 9 summonses in 72 hours in an effort to crack down on risky behavior.

“It’s a strategy we use. If someone’s riding a bike, they stop at a red light, but sometimes there are people who shoot straight out through the intersection,” said Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, the commanding officer of Brooklyn North, which oversees the area’s local precinct. “As much as we have to address the trucks, we have to address the cyclists as well.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill