Taxi driver Koffi Komlani won’t be charged for hitting and killing 9-year-old Cooper Stock and injuring his father Richard in a January crash at 97th street and West End Avenue, even though the pedestrians had the Walk sign.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance would not comment on the decision — or even confirm a decision had been made — when we contacted his office. But a Yahoo News article noted that the DA’s office broke the news to Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner this week:
“They told me there is nothing in the law right now that specifies that he can be charged with any crime,” Lerner said, describing the meeting. Under New York law, criminal charges can only be brought if a driver who injures or kills a pedestrian commits two misdemeanors at a time. Because the driver, Koffi Komlani, was charged with “failure to yield” but nothing else, he will face a penalty of up to $300 and three points on his license.
“The laws in New York state which say you can kill someone and not face any real consequences are appalling, and they need to be changed.”
(Gothamist says that the two misdemeanors rule is more of a guideline than a rule and that prosecutors could still bring charges.)
Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal has proposed a bill called “Cooper’s Law” that would revoke the license of a taxi driver “convicted of killing or seriously injuring a pedestrian or biker due to a moving traffic violation.”
In another article about Stock on Yahoo, Lisa Belkin wrote in more detail about the crash that killed Stock, noting that cars had already been diverted because of another fatal crash that night on 96th and Broadway. Komlani was apparently going so fast, it looked like his car was going to keep traveling into parked cars on the other side of the street, another taxi driver said.
Belkin, however, thinks street design may have as much to do with crashes at that intersection as driver speed. And thus, Komlani isn’t necessarily all to blame.
“If you accept the core logic — that it is a structural problem, a design flaw, that is the root cause of most pedestrian deaths, then that raises the question of how you can find an individual guilty if the problem was, in effect inherent in the product — the product being the street on which he drove.”
A street safety group had recommended that the city fix the intersection at 97th and West End and several others six years before the crash.
It’s a thoughtful article about the issue, and has a lot of relevance to the current debate about pedestrian safety on the Upper West Side.
The city has begun making some changes at 97th and West End, including changing signal timing, but locals have argued that the changes are too little too late. Meanwhile, the area remains dangerous for pedestrians.