Felix Coss, a 61 year old Brooklyn Spanish teacher, was killed in 2013 by an NYPD officer, who was making a left turn at a stop light. Mr. Coss was within the crosswalk, had a green light, and in every other way possible was legally walking across the street.
In contrast, NYPD Officer Paula Medrano did just about everything that someone could possibly do wrong in the given situation. As can be seen in the video of the fatal incident, Ofc. Medrano quickly accelerated through the intersection as soon as the light changed without looking for pedestrians attempting to cross. Medrano was also reportedly using her cell phone at the time of the accident.
Her failure to observe the conditions in which she was driving extended to the point that she never visibly tries to apply the brakes until she has already hit Coss with the NYPD van. Furthermore, the speed that she reached in the short amount of time it took for her to cross the intersection can be gauged by the velocity with which Coss is thrown backwards upon impact. As a result of that violent impact, Coss suffered severe head injuries. Later that night, Felix Coss died from those injuries.
Amazingly enough, the NYPD is now claiming as a defense to a lawsuit filed by Coss’ two surviving brothers that Officer Medrano was actually not at fault. The reason she bears no responsibility either criminally or financially, according to the NYPD, is because Mr. Coss “assumed the risk” of crossing the street when he stepped off the curb and into the crosswalk. In other words, Coss was the one actually at fault for not avoiding or anticipating Officer Medrano’s reckless actions that day.
Via a “StreetsBlog NYC” post: (Emphasis added)
Video of the crash shows Medrano stopped at the Hooper Street crosswalk on the north side of the intersection as Coss, approaching from the south, stops for the signal. When the light changes, Coss enters the Broadway crosswalk, still facing Medrano, as Medrano accelerates into the intersection and turns left, driving directly into Coss and knocking him to the asphalt.
The NYPD crash report says Medrano “had the green light,” but does not indicate Coss was crossing with the walk signal and had the right of way.
Following up on a witness statement that Medrano was on her cell phone at the time of the crash, the Internal Affairs Bureau subpoenaed her phone records, according to the Daily News. But just two days after Coss was killed the Post reported that Medrano probably wouldn’t be summonsed or charged by NYPD. Though Coss “had the pedestrian signal,” the Post reported, “No criminality and no traffic-law violations are suspected.”
“It was a tragic, unfortunate accident,” an anonymous NYPD source said.
NYPD denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to the crash.
Coss was survived by two brothers, who filed a suit against the city, NYPD, and Medrano, claiming Medrano was driving recklessly, using a cell phone, and failed to yield. But the city’s Law Department claims Coss was responsible for the collision.
The city’s response to the suit says Coss “knew or should have known in the exercise of due/reasonable care of the risks and dangers incident to engaging in the activity alleged.”
From the city’s court filing:
- Plantiff(s) voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed. Plaintiff(s) failed to use all required, proper, appropriate and reasonable safety devices and/or equipment and failed to take all proper, appropriate and reasonable steps to assure his/her/their safety … Plaintiff(s)’ implied assumption of risk caused or contributed, in whole or in part [sic] to his/her/their injuries.
The Coss family’s attorney, Andrew Levine, says NYPD and the city have resisted providing materials relevant to the case, including witness statements, which the city has failed to surrender despite two court orders. “We believe those statements are going to be very powerful evidence about the conscious pain and suffering that Felix Coss went through,” Levine told Streetsblog. “It feels as though they really put up a stone wall to try and prevent any flow of information whatsoever.”
NYPD has a history of mistreating victims of police-involved traffic crashes. The department keeps a tight lid on information related to crashes that involve police personnel, going so far as to withhold data from other city agencies, a policy that has not changed since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2014.
Even for the NYPD, and police in general, the level of arrogance and disrespect within that quoted portion sets a high bar. Getting beyond that, do you have any doubt that if you blew through an intersection while talking on your cell phone, and ran into someone legally crossing the street causing that innocent person’s death that you would walk scot-free without so much as a traffic ticket? In all likelihood, you would be awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.
And they don’t even so much as want to compensate the family of Officer Medrano’s victim.