VEHICULAR CRIMES UNIT
The Vehicular Crimes Unit focuses on instances of vehicular homicide or serious injury connected to drunk driving, reckless driving and leaving-the-scene-of-an-accident offenses.
Reclaim Magazine Interview About Traffic Justice
As Brooklyn District Attorney, Ken Thompson is determined to make New York City’s streets safe and just. Reclaim sat down to discuss how he thinks that change is going to happen, what in-spired him to get involved and where the fight for livable streets is going.
What put this issue on your radar?
I’ll tell you what put it on my radar. There was an incident in November of 2013 in my neighborhood. It involved a young child named Lucian Merryweather. He was only nine. It was November. It was a Saturday. It was a clear day. It was a beautiful day. He was walking down the street with his mother and his five-year-old brother. They were on the sidewalk near DeKalb Avenue. A man named Anthony Byrd ran him over and killed him.
I have a daughter who is ten and a son who is eight. I felt for the parents of Lucian Merryweather. And so I believe that we can do better as a borough and a city in making our streets safer.
I met with Lucian Merryweather’s parents after I took office. It might have been January of 2014. It was shortly after I took office. No matter what I said to them, they were inconsolable. I will never forget that meeting—just like when I met with the father of Mo-hammed Uddin, the 14-year-old brilliant young boy from Brook-lyn Tech, who was killed in November of 2014.
I believe there’s a greater role for district attorneys to play in keep-ing our streets safe. I think that, in the past, some have argued that when these incidents happen, they’re an accident. Quite often, the victim is blamed for the incident without a real full-blown investi-gation. I think we need to change that. That is what motivated me as a father, as a concerned citizen and as the D.A. That is what prompted me to act.
And then I had Council Member Brad Lander, who I have great respect for, reach out to me. He brought Mohammed Uddin’s fa-ther to see me. Mr. Uddin cried through that whole meeting. Brad and I had some follow up conversations about what we could do. The takeaway was that we should bring folks together—safety advocates, members of the NYPD, members of my office and oth-ers—to see if we could do better in Brooklyn. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Driver Accountability Taskforce we created.
Could you tell us a bit more about the Taskforce?
We had a preliminary meeting at the end of last year—a small meeting with Council Member Lander and just a few folks. Fami-lies for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives were there. At that meeting, I suggested we have a sort of summit; that we should have more people around the table. I said let’s plan it, let’s do it, let’s bring the stakeholders together. We had our first meeting about a month ago. It was well attended. We had people from pro-bation. Judge Calabrese from Red Hook was there. We had so many folks at the table and some of my top executives were there—Eric Gonzalez, my second in command. The goal is to see how we can come together to prevent these tragedies from happen-ing, and to figure out how we, and the court system, can prosecute these cases and work on restorative justice models. In the Lucian Merryweather case, no matter what sentence the defendant got, that family will never be the same. I do think that we can do better as prosecutors in terms of helping families of victims heal. A sen-tence is not solely the answer. Quite often they want to know why. They want people to know what the defendant’s actions meant; how they impacted a family. We’re having those discussions.
Recent Press Releases:
- Hit-and-Run Driver Indicted for Recklessly Killing Cyclist in Williamsburg
- Driver Indicted for Recklessly Killing Pedestrian in Fort Greene, Injuring Two Others
- Driver Sentenced up to 7 Years in Prison for Recklessly Killing Pedestrian during High-Speed Police Chase
- Brooklyn Man Sentenced to Up to 15 Years in Prison for Fatal Crash That Left 12-Year-Old Girl Dead, Mother and Sister Injured
- Driver Indicted for Recklessly Killing His Girlfriend by Allegedly Speeding, Blowing a Red Light and Crashing Into Parked Cars