Last summer, 28-year-old Clara Heyworth died while crossing the street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn — she was hit by a car piloted by an intoxicated driver who only had a learner’s permit. The NYPD never conducted an investigation, and the driver received only a violation for driving without a license. Today, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, is suing the New York Police Department and the driver in civil court.
Heyworth’s case received basically no police attention. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, with its staff of just 19 people (who we assume are extremely overworked), called off the investigation after an hour or so. The squad only investigates crashes where the victim is “likely to die” and in Heyworth’s case, they concluded based on one call to the hospital that she didn’t fit that category. Stevens said the police who responded to the crash told him from the get-go that Heyworth had little chance of making it, and, in fact, she never regained consciousness.
Heyworth’s death alone would be a tragedy, but as Stevens points out, “it fits a pattern.” In New York City, drivers in cars routinely kill people and get away with it. Death is just what happens when people drive heavy pieces of metal at blazing speeds down busy roads. No one investigates, and the drivers who kill people get back on the road. The man who killed Heyworth had his car back later that evening.
Stevens is announcing his lawsuit this morning at a rally held by Transportation Alternatives, an NYC advocacy group. Here’s a bit of his statement:
NYPD made a conscious decision not to investigate the scene of Clara’s death. And we know that this wasn’t an isolated incident — it fits a pattern … We’re often told that violent crime in this city is falling. But this violent killing, which took Clara from me, is not a part of those statistics — and that is a direct result of the cancelled investigation and the destruction of crucial evidence.
But if you really want to get angry, read what he told Gothamist about the accident:
“I would have been the only witness to the crash, but I don’t have a visual memory of it, just an auditory memory,” Stevens explains. “My visual memory resumes when I am by her side and screaming for help. But I can’t see the car or the impact. I recall the brakes screeching and it sounded like it was going too fast, but the sound of the impact wouldn’t count as evidence of speeding and reckless driving.”
It’s hard to read this and believe that anyone, anywhere would argue that it’s bike lanes that pose the real danger to pedestrians.