DRIVER CHARGED IN CRASH THAT KILLED COOPER STOCK; MOM CALLS LENIENCE AN ‘INSULT’

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Cooper Stock

Cab driver Koffi Komlani was charged with “failure to exercise due care” in the January crash that killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was crossing West End Avenue at West 97th with his father when he was hit. Cooper had the walk light, but Komlani plowed into him anyway, according to police. The charge is an infraction, not a criminal charge as street safety activists have called for.

Komlani was initially charged with failure to yield, a traffic infraction that results in points on your license, but he didn’t have his license taken away until months later. “Komlani, 53, of upstate Harriman, was a probationary hack who’d been on the road less than a year when the Jan. 10 crash occurred. The Taxi & Limousine Commission didn’t renew his license when it expired July 5,” the Daily News reported.

The tragedy inspired “Cooper’s Law,” which causes cab drivers to have their licenses suspended, and potentially revoked, if they break the law, hit someone and cause serious injuries.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance never explained his decision not to charge Komlani and the charges come as a surprise — in fact, a few months ago he told Stock’s family that the driver wouldn’t be charged. A spokesman for the DA’s office did not explain the reason behind the delay, but sent the following description of the charge:

On 10/7/14, Komlani was charged with 1 count of VTL 1146(c)(1) (Failure of a driver to exercise due care – serious physical injury). The next court date is 12/4 for control (for your info purposes, “control” is a blanket term encompassing any pre-trial matter, for a defendant to file motions or the judge to receive a status update on the case etc).

The defendant was released on his own recognizance. The judge at arraignment suspended the defendant’s license during the pendency of the criminal case. NOTE: VTL 1146(c)(1) is a traffic infraction. The maximum is 15 days jail and $750 fine with a license suspension and the minimum is no penalty – in the end, that is up to the judge.

Dana Lerner, Cooper’s mom, was dissatisfied with the charge, she told us.

“It is an insult to my sons memory that this driver was charged with failure to exercise due care. he did not yield, he did not bother to notice a 6 foot 3 inch man in front of him. he could have put his brakes on after he hit them. why did he run my son over??? He was never drug tested. The DA’s office never interviewed him. the investigation was incomplete in my opinion.  He was driving recklessly and was not paying attention to what he was doing. the punishment does not fit the crime.”

The DA’s office did not respond to her criticism.

NEWS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. Amy says:

      It’s blood-boiling. I feel for this mother and how she must still, every day, have to walk past the spot where her child was murdered. This family undoubtedly has the community’s support- but what can we do?

    2. DMH says:

      My heart really goes out to his family, and everyone who knew Cooper. No one should have to live through such an unfathomable loss. What an adorable, sweet kid we have lost here. I am so sorry.

      Shame on Cy Vance for this cowardly approach. Fifteen days in jail and $750 for killing a nine-year-old kid, hand-in-hand with his dad and practically at their doorstep…. it’s unconscionable. I end up wondering how someone in public service can seem so indifferent and out-of-touch.

    3. Upperwestsideguy says:

      This callous disregard for life is a typical repeating example of NY’rs who have sold their self respect, safety and equality to anything that has a wheel attached to it. The rest of the country bows in shame and dismay. This is very very wrong on so many levels. Get rid of the DA and change the enforcement policies and the laws and do it now.
      I am sick and tired of this. Aren’t you ?

    4. Z says:

      This is disgusting. Agree with Amy, curious what we as a community can do, b/c this is not ok. This man killed a little boy, that is not “failure to exercise due care.”

    5. Julia Fine says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but isn’t Cooper’s death vehicular manslaughter? A judicial response of 15 days jail and a suspended license seems to me to be unduly lenient, if that is the maximum sentence. The “suspension” mystifies me! Even if the driver did not intend to cause the death of this child, he did so. I think the driver should have his license revoked permanently and 15 days jail time certainly does not tell this driver and others who get behind the wheel of any vehicle and cause a life to be lost that this is NOT OK.

    6. pjrod says:

      People… it’s called an accident for a reason. Sometimes that’s all it is. What good does it do put this man in jail or even kill him as I think you would all find very satisfying

      • dan says:

        to pjrod, it is not an accident, that is the problem with the whole situation. an accident is a light pole falling on a car, or tires spinning out in wet weather. mowing down a father and son in a crosswalk is not an accident. You get behind the wheel of a two ton machine in a dense urban environment, certain responsibilities accrue, and one is when you turn, you slow down significantly to a crawl.

    7. AUWS says:

      Agreed, this man’s life is ruined, he is probably finished professionaly and he has to carry around the guilt of killing a child the rest of his life. This does not in any way even begin to compare with the pain felt by Cooper’s parents, but how does punishing people for accidents make this better….what is with this aparent need for vengeance everyone has… Let’s take our “vengeance energy” and focus on trying to prevent this in the future. Not worth punishing people unless it somehow acts as a deterrent, which I don’t really see in the case of an accident…

      • upperwestsideguy says:

        It is always better to be part of the solution than the problem. I like the comments that are well balanced and I wish we had more of that.I am also saddened and frustrated at the frequency of such moving violations that go unchallenged.So I hope you will forgive me if I vent here. Larger changes have to made.

        They day we can get into a cab that does not speed and obeys the law I will agree that deterrents we will then have, will have finally worked. They are not working now. They are not enforced. Why doesn’t matter at the moment.
        I take it personally when someone is doing dangerous or deadly things that can kill me or another human being even more so when they are taking my money at the same time. Its like being held up at gunpoint and then having my serenity and money taken. Then rationalizing it by saying don’t get robbed. It was an accident. Don’t use a cab. Don’t cross the street.
        I will not argue if he (the driver) was responsible or not, but I surely am going to hold him and every other driver on the road ACCOUNTABLE to the same standard. This is not vengeance.
        This is simply a wake up call to all those who say I will follow this rule but not that one. It creates chaos and kills people.This is not about personalities, but rather about principles. This is about everyone. Its about not continuing to enable an environment of abuse entitlement and danger. Only once these issues are addressed will we find justice. Or we can just leave the target on our backs. Excuses are useless.
        I feel sorry for everyone that was involved in any way even indirectly with Cooper’s loss.
        This is an issue that effects everyone. At the same time I have never seen an American community so laxly blind to a situation that we manufactured and tenaciously support.
        I imagine you have been in a cab.Some of them are truely awful.
        Widespread abuse by cabbies has incurred the wrath of all “haters”.
        Still this wheeling abuse continues hourly.
        I suppose the bottom line is this. How is this working for us ? It isn’t .

        How people choose to violate the law is not an accident. It is a choice.Nearly every cabbie chooses to violate the laws daily. Its a deadly savage and permissive attitude.It creates a bad example that is emulated by many others. The only thing more deadly then that are those who do and say nothing. They are equally to blame.

        The attitude of get-there-itis has accidentally killed many a planeload of people. Its not acceptable for an airline and no one will argue that! How is it acceptable for anyone else in a different public transportation venue is a mystery we will have to solve to understand what is needed to induce change. We do not have to remain barbarians forever. This is about others being lazy, ill trained, undisciplined and basic low self esteem. We don’t seem to think we deserve to even demand better never mind getting it.There are many places where this not acceptable. Alas NYC is not there yet. I’m tired of seeing friends, family and neighbors run over and yes sometimes killed.More than 52 pedestrians have been hurt on West End street in just two years. Those are the ones that were reported. That is just one street. I am tired of riding up to my floor with someone weeping next to me about another needless death of a loved one.
        I walk past that corner where Cooper died everyday. I’m sorry, its just not OK. It never will be.

        • J says:

          To: upperwestsideguy – you are so right. Well said – brought tears to my eyes – such a sad situation; so frustrating that the TLC and lawmakers alike turn a blind eye to drivers who endanger us everyday. I take cabs constantly and am consistently refused when I ask that they do not speak on their phones or otherwise drive while distracted while I am a passenger. The death of this child is awful/preventable. Law makers are lax – until it happens to their loved one. I have to laugh when politicians focus on the “deadliness” of “sugary drinks, rather than the safety of our streets/roads, and especially, our children – very disturbing (and indicative of self interest gone totally awry).

        • AUWS says:

          I would actually agree with the premise of what was said. The cabbie does need to be held ACCOUNTABLE. I would 100% support civil litigation against the cab driver. Even though it is an accident, as you pointed out someone DOES still need to be held accountable, and I would never stand in the way of that. What I take issue with is the “criminalization” of an accident, especially since it is unlikely to be a significant deterrent of future accidents. The goal of a good criminal justice system is to function as a deterrent for CRIME, not a mechanism for victims to exact retribution on perpetrators…

    8. webot says:

      At the very least, the District Attorney needs to give an answer to the family and everyone else as to why no criminal charges have not been filed.

    9. John says:

      Would publicly hanging this guy bring the child back? My heart breaks for the family of this poor child. This is nothing more than an accident. This neighborhood needs a balance of respect for both Motor Vehicles and pedestrians. I see it all the time, people walk against the light and slowly crossing the street while looking at the oncoming car. Please remember that it is easier to stop a 150LB human than a two ton car.

      The biggest problem is how easy it is to get a drivers license. People from all over the country who dont have a clue how to drive are behind the wheel and causing accidents.

      • DMH says:

        John, you might see “people walking against the light” but you must know that’s not close to what happened in Cooper’s death.

        He was crossing the street, in the crosswalk, with the light, hand in hand with his 6-foot-3 dad, in their densely populated residential neighborhood, when a driver broke the law by running them down.

        Accident is a colloquialism for a car crash, but Cooper didn’t break any laws here. Komlani did. No one calls for Komlani to be “publicly hanged.” Just to be prosecuted to the fullest extent the laws allow. The same way Vance would prosecute a drunk driver, a burglar, a child abuser or anyone else who broke a law with serious, horrible consequence. Cy Vance is arguing that this professional driver didn’t break “enough” laws when “accidentally” taking a child’s life, and I think many of us are thinking, what a dumb excuse. Enforcing the law is his one job – please don’t shrug off an innocent child’s death as an “accident.”