NYPD grilled for Lefevre investigation

NYPD grilled for Lefevre investigation
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

The mother of a deceased Bushwick cyclist blasted police at a tense City Council hearing on Wednesday for failing to thoroughly investigate the hit-and-run accident that took her son’s life four months ago.

Erika Lefevre traveled to City Hall from her home in Canada to urge legislators to end a policy of lax enforcement of traffic fatalities after a truck driver faced no criminal charges for striking her son, Mathieu, in Williamsburg on Oct. 19 and leaving the scene.

“I want disclosure, I want to get the truth, that’s why I came to New York once again,” she said. “I do not believe drivers who cause deaths should be able to walk away without consequences.”

Public officials and cycling advocates — who pedaled to the hearing in a memorial ride from the site of the collision at Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street — took her side, unloading a litany of complaints on the NYPD for making errors in the investigation and not treating traffic fatalities with the gravity they deserve.

“I’m a little bit outraged,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg). “My concern with this case is there is a carelessness that has gone into this that has compromised this investigation.”

A high-ranking police official refused to comment about the matter, saying, “we can’t talk about individual cases.”

After the crash, the Lefevres campaigned against the NYPD for months, urging cops to release information about their son’s death before they filed suit against the police force in January to obtain investigation reports and surveillance videos from the Oct. 19 hit-and-run.

Initial police documents indicated that truck driver Leonard Degianni hit Lefevre with the front of his vehicle — making the cyclist’s family push for his arrest.

But when cops released a series of surveillance videos two weeks ago, the footage did not show the crash impact in any detail, according to a Streetsblog report — leading the family to accuse the NYPD of withholding evidence.

Police say they have disclosed all documents from their investigation into the cyclist’s death.

Attorneys for the NYPD and the Lefevres clashed in court the day before the Council hearing, as police lawyers attempted to dismiss the Lefevres’s lawsuit on several technicalities.

But the family’s attorney, Steve Vaccaro, argued that the NYPD must give relatives of crash victims a timely disclosure of the facts.

“If the NYPD can ease that pain by sharing information, without interfering with an investigation, why wouldn’t they?” said Vaccaro. “I can’t quite understand why NYPD is fighting this. The NYPD’s position is heartless, and as a legal matter, meritless.”

Judge Peter Moulton, who is hearing the Lefevres’s suit, did not render a decision and has yet to schedule the next court date.

Cycling advocates aren’t waiting around to call for better traffic enforcement.

A Transportation Alternatives spokesman called dangerous driving a “public health and public safety crisis” that police have the power to stop.

“As long as the default response to a motor vehicle crash is ‘accidents happen,’ the behaviors that are killing and injuring people will continue,” said spokesman Mike Murphy

And Ben Shepard of Time’s Up New York — the organization behind the ride from the Lefevre crash scene to City Hall — said it’s time for police and legislators to approach cycling from a new perspective.

“I hope the city ends the demonization of cyclists and treats us with dignity and respect,” said Shepard. “We know cycling is part of the solution for a city facing increasing congestion as well as global problems, such as global warming. Cyclists should be applauded as part of the solution, not subject to harassment.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.