A New York Police Department legal filing asserts that a 61-year-old Spanish teacher who was run over and killed by a police van while crossing a street to which he had the legal right of way “caused or contributed, in whole or in part” to his own death, the StreetsBlog site reports. What’s more, a witness reportedly told investigators that the officer driving the van that killed Felix Coss “was holding her cell phone up to her ear” when she turned into him.
Felix Coss was crossing Broadway at Hooper Street in Williamsburg, in a crosswalk with the signal, on the afternoon of July 6, 2013, when Officer Paula Medrano of the 90th Precinct struck him with a marked police van while turning left. Coss, a 61-year-old veteran Spanish teacher, suffered severe head injuries and died that night at Bellevue Hospital.
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 New York Daily News reported in 2013 that NYPD had subpoenaed Medrano’s phone records after a witness reported the officer appeared to have been using her phone when Coss was struck, but it’s not clear whether the department determined internally if Medrano had been on her phone or bore any fault for the fatal collision. (It’s against the law in New York state to use a cellphone while driving.) Coss’ two surviving brothers have filed a lawsuit against the city, which responded with the filing that says the late teacher “voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed.” (The “alleged activity” = crossing the street at a stoplight while the “walk” signal was illuminated.)
The next court hearing related to the suit is scheduled for April, StreetsBlog says.