Police Finally Reveal Embarrassing File in Mathieu Lefevre Cycling Death

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Mathieu Lefevre
Forced by a looming Freedom of Information Law deadline, on Friday the New York Police Department finally told the mother of Mathieu Lefevre what it knows about the cycling death of her son last fall.

The documents released directly contradict the initial version of events put out by police, and suggest an investigation so sloppy that the likelihood of getting justice for Lefevre's death is scant.

Back in October, the first story to emerge about the circumstances of Lefevre's death, at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street in Brooklyn, painted the cyclist at fault. A police officer told Gothamist shortly afterward that Lefevre had run a red light. The driver of the crane-truck that hit him probably wasn't even aware he'd hit Lefevre, a police spokesman said. No charges were filed against the driver, and that looked to be the end of it.

But Lefevre's family wasn't satisfied. In fact, they were furious that the NYPD was releasing information to the press that it had refused to give to Lefevre's campaign. They hired a lawyer, Steve Vaccaro, who pressured the police to go back and reinvestigate. At his prodding, the NYPD turned up a video that showed the accident. But even with Vaccaro's help, it required a Freedom of Information request to get anything more from the police.

Today, we learned what was in the NYPD file. Lefevre's mother, Erika, released a statement on behalf of the family, explaining that the documents and video released to the family on Friday show that the cyclist didn't run a red light. While the police fault him for passing the truck on the right, the real issue is that the truck made a right turn -- without signalling -- across Lefevre's path, knocking him from his bike and dragging him for 40 feet. The truck continued to drag the bike for another 130 feet before it finally came loose, and the truck drove off.

This sequence of events casts serious doubt on the claims by the driver -- since identified as Leonardo Degianni -- that he was unaware of striking Lefevre.

Vaccaro and the Lefevres are hopeful that when the Brooklyn District Attorney's office reviews the NYPD's findings, if will find enough in the file bring a charge of criminal negligence against Degianni.

But a successful prosecution of the driver is less likely than it might be, because the NYPD seems to have bungled the investigation. While a detective told Vaccaro that there was blood and paint on the truck's front bumper, the file contains no description of it.

"An investigator told me he saw the blood on the bumper that night, starting to run off in the rain," Vaccaro said. "But they didn't take a picture."

Why didn't the police take a picture of the bloody bumper, or indeed, any picture at all of the entire accident scene? Well, their camera was broken:

lefevrebrokencamera.jpg

As Erika Lefevre says, "We are appalled by this and other plainly unprofessional aspects of the NYPD investigation. NYPD should take its responsibility to investigate crashes more seriously."

But while the NYPD didn't manage to get any pictures of the scene of the accident, they were more diligent in another respect: the Lefevre file does contain pictures -- of Vaccaro and Erika Lefevre.

Why was the NYPD collecting photographs of the mother trying to get basic information about the death of her son and her lawyer?

Vaccaro doesn't know. "That's not something I've encountered before," he said. "It's certainly not routine."

Here's the NYPD report on the video of the accident:

lefevrecomplaint.jpg

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.

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35 comments
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DC
DC

In the headline:  "Embarrassing File"?  That's all this amounts to?  More like "Incompetent Investigation."  Courtesy, Respect, Professionalism -- all absent here.

Chieu Anh Le Van
Chieu Anh Le Van

Thank you for the attention paid to the Lefevre family and theirstruggle. They are accepting donations for their legal fund here:mathieulefevre.org

chieu-anh
chieu-anh

Thank you for the attention paid to the Lefevre family and theirstruggle. They are accepting donations for their legal fund here:mathieulefevre.org

Dont Coast
Dont Coast

F#&K the NYPD. Lying rotten scum. What a surprise.

RIP Mathieu. Your mom is such a champ for fighting for the truth!

And please, noone ever try to pass a vehicle (esp that large) on the right at any driveway or intersection.  I've had too many friends and aquaintances hurt or killed that way. Pass on the left even if it means slowing and swerving. Beware the right hook!

ascpgh
ascpgh

NYPD and its leadership/governance have made the city a place to avoid as a cyclist. I'm not returning for the FIve Boroughs Ride, which won't bother anyone much. It was fun and I enjoy riding in the city as my transportation. Just not happy when it starts looking like I will be hunted and violations to my person functionally ignored via incompetence.

Multiply public reactions to cops acting like doofuses citing bikers with silly tickets and exhibiting systemic incompetence when investigating vehicle vs cyclist accidents involving death and you can see the beginning of a tide. 

Yes NYPD has a lot on their plate but they could afford to admit their need of additional competence when trying to regulate/officiate bicycles as traffic. Does the mayor not realize there will only be more of them as time goes on?

If NYPD cannot keep a camera for recording crime scene evidence functioning do we really want them to operate drones?

LOZACHOZA
LOZACHOZA

NYPD protect and serve CUNTS

Thomas Renda
Thomas Renda

As bike racer who did 6 or 7 thousand miles a year for many years, I routinely passed slower traffic backed up at lights on the right -- or even between lanes.  It's called "filtering" and it is an accepted and widespread practice. 

BUT when I would get close to the actual intersection, I usually stayed behind the first or second vehicle at the light to avoid just this type of accident - especially in tight intersections.

Sounds like the poor cyclist rode right into the truck's blind spot. Signal might have helped, IF the cyclist had seen it and the took evasive action.  But there is no guaranty he would have. Not sure there is much of a story here.  A fellow cylist made a mistake and was killed, which is tragic, of course.  But the driver may have been guilty of nothing more than failure to signal.

Riding aggressivley is fun, and I still do it, but it does pose risks.

 

ChickenRing
ChickenRing

NYC is not Amsterdam or Portland.  Anyone with half a brain knows that vehicular drivers are INSANE in this city and that extra special care must be taken when riding near them. Not BLAMING the victim, but I think it's naive for all these bikers to assume every vehicular driver will respect, understand and be tolerant.

WRONG
WRONG

No, blaming the victim is EXACTLY what  you are doing.

ocschwar
ocschwar

If the NYPD did its fucking job in holding reckless drivers accountable, vehicular drivers would be more inclined to exercise due care and drive safely. When the police won't even properly investigate a lethal hit&run, no wonder drivers don't give a shit.

Grant Rummel
Grant Rummel

This is absolutely shameful.

Juanitob
Juanitob

the police department is like a crew, they do whatever they want to do.

Victorhome
Victorhome

NYPD thugs.  Thugs in blue, period. 

Stefan
Stefan

This is awful and disgusting. He was a friend of mine and everything about this case has been a slap in the face. I'm so sorry for his family. So so sorry. What an awful ordeal to endure after his death. Disgraceful.

Rstrnt
Rstrnt

Perhaps we need a REAL attorney that actually knows the law to look into this matter. We dont need Bubble Gum attorneys spearheading a partisan agenda of misinformation. But I may not agree with what you say, but Ill defend with my life, your right to say it.

riversong
riversong

Gotta point out, the cyclist was passing on the right, which, is both illegal and unwise, especially going past a piece of heavy equipment in an intersection.  I'm an avid cyclist, feel for the family & friends, but gotta call it like I see it.

Chris
Chris

The truck driver didn't signal, and both had been stopped at a red light, side by side. That's not passing on the right. If two cars are stopped side-by-side on a two-lane street at a red light and the one accelerates faster when the light turns green, is that passing on the right? No.

The driver failed to signal, and as a result, killed someone. And then left the scene. And then, the NYPD completely botched the accident investigation... and out of fear, even added photographs of the family's lawyer and victim's sister to their file.

Blaming the victim is not only ridiculous given the evidence here, but it's completely missing the point.

reader
reader

...[B]oth had been stopped at a red light, side by side.

That's contrary to what the description of the video in the report says.

guest
guest

you can not turn right onto meserole st. while traveling north on morgan as suggested in the video transcript. they can't even get that right.

reader
reader

Google Maps Street View shows there's a parking lot or some such at that intersection that you can make a right turn into.

J
J

This type of shoddy investigation would make headlines for weeks in any other circumstance. Can you even imagine a murder investigation where the police simply wrote that their camera was broken (as if it was the only camera that the NYPD owned) and failed to collect blood samples or video evidence? Can you imagine the headlines the dailies would print? Yet they won't touch this. Even in the "All the news that's fit to print" Times, it's only fit for the local news blog. What does this say about us as a society?

If you want to kill someone in NYC, do it with a car and say you didn't see them. That's good enough for the NYPD. They'll pronounce you innocent at the scene ("No criminality suspected"). Actually, you don't even need to stay at the scene. If, and I emphasize if, they find you later, they'll just let that whole "fleeing the scene is a felony" thing slide. As for the evidence collection, you won't need to worry about that, since they won't bother to see if local stores took video or anything. If fact, they'll even "forget" to take photos or collect blood evidence. That way, even if the public rises up and demands a real investigation later, it won't be physically possible for the NYPD to do so. They'll really cover all your bases to make sure your killing is as clean and hassle-free as possible.

deValangin
deValangin

Says we don't care about stupid cyclists who don't realize that a 2 ton truck doesn't care if they have a right of way or not.

alittlebitmore
alittlebitmore

More like a minimum of a 10 ton truck (if it were a small crane truck). Crane trucks are regularly larger - 40 to 50 tons. An SUV is 2 ton.

Ronald Alan
Ronald Alan

Convenient for you to point out after the fact.  Who would expect a two ton truck to follow the rules, right?  I'm sure the driver doesn't care if he kills anyone, It's just a stupid cyclist, right?  Don't be so daft.  If everyone abides by the law that truck wouldn't have killed anyone regardless of how much he "cares" about who has the right away.

J
J

It says we tolerate death on our streets so much that we don't even bother to find out if a death could have been prevented. Sadly, people like yourself perpetuate this callous "blame the victim" mentality.

J
J

What you say is interesting, although, I'm not sure how this relates to my point about how not conducting a proper investigation in the first place shows that we assume fault by the one who can no longer defend himself. There will likely be no trial in this case because the investigation was so poorly done. The NYPD, and not a trial jury or a judge, decided that the driver was innocent and failed to actually investigate.

reader
reader

Under the law, victims can shoulder the blame for what befell them, in whole or in part. Example: My sister was in the backseat, not wearing the seat belt, of a taxi that was traveling on a two-way street when it collided with a car coming from the other direction that was making a left turn. Her upper body was thrown forward from the impact and she broke her nose on the partition. Her lawyer told her that if her case went to trial, the jury could find that she bore some of the blame (because she wasn't wearing the seat belt) and the amount of the award would then be reduced.

ocschwar
ocschwar

They took her picture? As if it's not bad enough that the NYPD disgraced the entire nation by being so callous  and cruel to a newly bereaved mother, they up the ante by getting creepy and gathering a file on her? 

Nauseating.

Pedestrian
Pedestrian

Steve Vacarro and this poor, grieving mother are heroes for pushing this issue.  No one deserves this kind of treatment from the NYPD.

Vidiot
Vidiot

So why is a non-working camera listed as being in "Good" condition on the form? Was the "Takes Black Photos" description of the camera's not working on there when the officer checked the camera out from the precinct?

Jay Jay
Jay Jay

Because their incompetence probably extent to the point where they forgot to remove the lens cap. 

Mark
Mark

My thoughts exactly

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