The Sound You Just Heard Was Us Screaming In Anger.

Felx Cross was a 61 year old, beloved teacher at the Williamsburg Charter High School in Williamsburg, New York.

We use the past tense for Mr. Cross because on July 6, 2013, the Spanish teacher was run over by a New York Police Department van driven by Officer Paula Medrano. After being struck, Cross was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he died that night.

A local camera recorded the accident.

Cross was walking in the crosswalk, with the light when he was struck by Medrano.

What happened after this?

Nothing. Not one daggone thing.

A Spanish teacher who was hit and killed by a marked police van in Williamsburg had the right of way — but the plainclothes cop driving the vehicle is not likely to be charged, sources said.

“It was a tragic, unfortunate accident,” a police source told The Post.

Felix Coss, 61, had the pedestrian signal as he finished crossing Broadway at Hooper Street at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, sources said.

The veteran female officer was making a left-hand turn from Hooper Street to Broadway and failed to see the Coss, a teacher at the Beginning with Children Charter School, a source said. Coss was rushed to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No criminality and no traffic-law violations are suspected, police said.

Witnesses say that Medrano was on her cell phone at the time of the accident.

NYPD’s Internal Affairs Unit subpoenaed Medrano’s phone records because Medrano refused to hand over the cell phone:

A livery car driver, who saw the accident from across the street but would not give his name for fear of the police, said he saw the officer talking on her phone at the time of the accident.

“She had her phone up to her ear,” said the man who would only give his name as Elvis. “She didn’t yield. She didn’t see him until she hit him.”

Elvis said he saw Medrano get out of the car with a worried expression and start apologizing.

Investigators asked for her phone immediately after the accident but Medrano refused to hand it over, telling them that they would have to subpoena her for the records, police sources said.

News outlets and bloggers have asked for the records and other information now that the investigation is closed. The NYPD, however, have refused to allow the public to view the records:

On May 7, [2015] Streetsblog filed a FOIL [Freedom Of Information Law] request for records related to the crash. On May 26, NYPD Lieutenant Richard Mantellino rejected our request, citing “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,”…..

What is unwarranted about examining a crash that killed a man? What is unwarranted about seeing whether the officer driving a van was on her cell phone when she struck and killed a man?

What is even more exasperating is that the New York legislature is considering a bill that would require drivers to turn over their cell phone to the police immediately so they can search it to see if you were on the phone when a crash or accident occurs.

Every person operating a motor vehicle which has been involved in an accident or collision involving damage to real or personal property, personal injury or death, and who has in his possession at or near the time of such accident or collision, a mobile telephone or personal electronic device, shall at the request of a police officer, surrender his or her mobile telephone and/or portable electronic device to the police officer solely for the purpose of field testing such mobile telephone and/or portable electronic device.

The search of the phone would be mandatory. Under the law, the mere act of having a license or driving is going to be deemed consent to search the phone. (Fourth amendment anyone?)

We aren’t saying that Merdano had to turn over her phone, but we know that cops would have demanded it from a normal citizen. We also know that the cops would have said “if you don’t have anything to hide, let us see the phone.”

Instead, the police at all levels circled the wagons, protecting the cop who ran down a man and denying the public the right under the law to review the records of the case.

Yet all that we have written is not what has us furious. Perhaps we are like a volcano and all our previous words are built up to this eruption moment.

NJYPD Approved Attire for Pedestrians.

NJYPD Approved Attire for Pedestrians.

Two surviving brothers of Cross have filed a lawsuit against the police, Merdano, and the City of New York.

The city’s response to the suit says Coss “knew or should have known in the exercise of due/reasonable care of the risks and dangers incident to engaging in the activity alleged.

From the city’s court filing:

Plantiff(s) voluntarily performed and engaged in the alleged activity and assumed the risk of the injuries and/or damages claimed. Plaintiff(s) failed to use all required, proper, appropriate and

reasonable safety devices and/or equipment and failed to take all proper, appropriate and reasonable steps to assure his/her/their safety … Plaintiff(s)’ implied assumption of risk caused or contributed, in whole or in part [sic] to his/her/their injuries.

The Coss family’s attorney, Andrew Levine, says NYPD and the city have resisted providing materials relevant to the case, including witness statements, which the city has failed to surrender despite two court orders. “We believe those statements are going to be very powerful evidence about the conscious pain and suffering that Felix Coss went through,” Levine told Streetsblog. “It feels as though they really put up a stone wall to try and prevent any flow of information whatsoever.” (emphasis ours)

In short, the City of New York is blaming the victim for his death for crossing the street in a legally marked crosswalk and with the light. The City seems to be saying that Officer Merdano who according to witnesses was on her cell phone while driving, who failed to yield to pedestrian Cross in the crosswalk and who hit Cross with a two ton van bears no responsibility The cop who broke the law on many levels is clean because Cross was walking?

Furthermore, what gives the police and the City the right to not turn over records as the Court has ordered? Are the police above the law? Are the City lawyers above the law?


Here’s an idea…… if Joe Citizen refused to comply with a court order, he would be arrested and held for contempt of court. Why not order the arrest of the police and the city lawyers who are refusing to comply with the Court? Let those men and women spend a few days at Rikers Island? Why not fine them personally because the people of New York sure as heck shouldn’t be paying for any fines for contempt?

There is another question that needs to be addressed: “Where are all the good cops?”

Why aren’t they clamoring for the release of the records? They are going to have to venture out into the city with citizens who often think that cops think they are above the law. This incident proves that, so why aren’t the good cops screaming for the City and the NYPD to do the right, legal and moral thing which would result in less anger from citizens?

Where are all of those good cops?

We are simply stunned and angry.

One of the blogs we follow is the “Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.” The blog tracks incidents of alleged police misconduct and reports the outcome of the allegation. Over the years, we started to notice a trend of officers who were accused of misconduct or illegal acts losing their jobs or going to jail where before the attitude was “misconduct? What misconduct? Nothing to see here. Move along.”

We believe that much of that change was due to cell phones recording incidents. It was no longer a “citizen said / officer said” thing, but rather “who are you going to believe? The officer or your own eyes?” Blogs contributed as well. Stories that the media could not or would not carry were carried in local blogs. Pressure began to build to the point where departments started to realize that the only good police force is an honest, law abiding police force. They started to preach and act on the idea that “in order to gain the public trust, police must be trustworthy.”

In this case, it is impossible to not believe that the NYPD has taken another step back from being a trustworthy, honorable department. Furthermore, this retreat has the blessing of the City government itself in that they will not comply with the courts and established laws.

It’s very simple: either the police are bound by the law or their respect and authority goes out the window. The result will be someone or a group of people getting hurt all because of the attitude “if the cops can injure and kill civilians, civilians can and will fight back.”

It’s enough to make you scream.

Comments are closed.