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.

NEWS | 16 comments | permalink
    1. Morgan says:

      Its really all just so tragic. I have 4 small children and live across the street from the Stocks. We walk though that same crosswalk all the time and I’m always reminded of Cooper. I appreciate the changes that have been made but still feel like it’s not enough. Deepest condolences to the Stock family.

    2. ted says:

      Cyrus Vance is an affront to all New Yorkers and his continued presence makes a mockery of his office. While Vance declines to prosecute the negligent killer of a nine year old boy he wastes tax payer money and his department’s resources by raiding Home Depot and Paragon Sports for selling illegal pocket knives (the type of folding knives that are sold freely in pretty much every other city and state) but of course that brought in 7 figure fines and national headlines. The murder of a child is local news and it seems the DA feels it is beneath his interests. The sooner Vance is either unseated or moves on to pursue to the his ambitions on the national stage which he clearly has, the better for the citizens of New York. The man is a disgrace.

      • Upper West Side Wally says:

        It’s not Vance, it’s the law:
        “[…] there is nothing in the law right now that specifies that he can be charged with any crime,” […]. 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.”

    3. Dina says:

      First, my heart goes out to the family.
      Two misdemeanors are you kidding me! He was speeding and didn’t give the pedestrians their right of way!!
      That is not an ‘accident’, his car didn’t slip on ice. He was driving recklessly as many too many do all the time in this city risking people on bikes and walking.
      A life is not worth speeding to the next red light!!
      Getting into a car is potentially dangerous. Drivers need to slow down! Drive carefully. Expect there to be pedestrians and bikes and look out for them for the sake of human life.

      • ;' says:

        You’re SO right. Horrible tragedy and a totally indifferent way to punish this reckless atrocity.
        So many taxi drivers these days are insane.

    4. Alberto says:

      1 dead child=$300. Really??

    5. Scott says:

      NYC cabbies are the worst. But when you draw your hacks from countries where there are no traffic laws, you can expect the worst.

    6. Judy says:

      This is a sad commentary on our justice system. The driver committed murder in his rush to cross the intersection. His disregard for safety caused unspeakable grief to Cooper’s family. How is it possible that this crime can go unpunished?

    7. Upperwestsideguy says:

      How simply sickeningly awful.
      This is wrong in so so so many ways.
      I walk past that block each day. I can see that street from my window. It is a sad commentary that NY politicians think manslaughter or negligent homicide is acceptable.
      If this happened in any small town the result would have been unacceptable and had a different outcome.
      All Cabbies Speed. There is absolutely no accountability or responsibility to the laws of the land. NY’ers suffer from such low self esteem that they feel entitled to ignore what ever laws they choose. This puts everyone at risk. Have NY’ers have lost the concept that some rules are there for the greater good ?
      The sad truth is that wheels of any type trump pedestrians. Until we send a clear message to our elected officials that arbitrary enforcement resulting in deaths of the innocents is not acceptable, this carnage will continue. It is an outrageous affront to the decent people of NY and their visitors.
      We have to send the message we all are worth better than this.
      Some us will undoubtedly continue rationalize and excuse the needless deaths of children. In my world there is none. Even if the person was not responsible they should be held accountable. A permissive attitude is intolerable.
      Sadly NYC has made a pact with the Devil that states “Wheels equal money and money (300.00) trumps life”. What if it was your mother or your brother would it be OK then? Or perhaps we have such low self esteem that like prisoners, we have become used to being targets branded eternally for arbitrary execution. This endless lottery of death must stop.
      I don’t know about you, but I was brought up to think we are worth far better than this.
      Lastly I wish to state that NY’ers, when they want to can affect amazing changes. In my lifetime I have seen some of these changes. Its time to make some more wouldn’t you agree? Or have you not yet grown weary of being a target? I really don’t enjoy riding the elevator with grief stricken neighbors, families and friends who have lost loved ones. I know I am not alone.
      Please say something or do something. If not for yourself and your families for those that no longer have a voice.

    8. Scott says:

      How about “failure to yield” AND reckless driving? That’s two misdemeanors. Both are appropriate. I was tagged for reckless driving for swerving around an illegally double parked car. I didn’t come close to killing or hurting anyone. Good job NYPD.

    9. DMH says:

      Last night Taxi & Limousine Commission said after July 5, the killer cabbie’s hack license won’t be renewed. Thank you TLC. This is the group that gave a 30-day suspension but did not fire a cabbie who was wearing a Nazi uniform on the job! It’s amazing that in this tragic mess, they are the organization standing up to do the borderline morally acceptable thing for the public.

      Will never vote for Cy Vance again, would gladly sign a recall petition.

      • Upper West Side Wally says:

        “This is the group that gave a 30-day suspension but did not fire a cabbie who was wearing a Nazi uniform on the job!”
        Repugnant as that may be, there is such a thing as the First Amendment.
        (Nor did he wear a Nazi uniform, just the arm band.)

        • DMH says:

          I’m aware of the First Amendment 🙂 but as I understand it, it doesn’t give protection from being fired for disgracing your employer. Even if the speech was First Amendment-protected. I believe it just means the Government can’t arrest you for exercising First Amendment rights.

          Anyway, all off topic. My deepest sympathy to the Stock family.

    10. Bill says:

      And just this morning as I was walking across Amsterdam Avenue, THREE CIVILIAN CARS in a row raced through a red light to make a LEFT TURN onto 79th Street! They almost knocked over an older woman who was crossing with the light. She banged on the trunk of the last car and treated them to some choice invective. If I had been 15 steps closer, I would have joined her.