A Manhattan cyclist claims an NYPD officer refused to take his statement after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver early Monday morning. Then, after leaving the hospital and heading to the police precinct, he says a second officer told him he was "making it worse for himself" by insisting on providing his side of the story.
Greg Keller, 45, told Gothamist that he was biking west on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan on Monday morning when a red sedan began tailgating him, getting as close as six inches away. The driver, attempting to pass a car in the left lane, struck the back wheel of his bicycle, before "taking off very fast," Keller said. But there were multiple witnesses on the street, and they tracked the driver down in a parking lot and informed him that he was "busted," according to the cyclist.
"Minutes later, I'm still laying in the street, and a cop comes over and asks me what happened, and I said a f-cking car hit me and took off," Keller recalled. "Then the driver, because people had chased him down, comes jogging up and says, 'Hey it was me I'm sorry.'"
According to Keller, the police officer interviewed the driver, Lamont Melendez of Queens, for 10 to 15 minutes, but "never asked me what happened or gave me a chance to tell my part of the story." He was then taken to the hospital, where he learned that he had ligament damage in his shoulder.
A few hours later, still sore from the crash, Keller went to the 5th Precinct on Elizabeth Street to add his perspective to the police report. It was here, he said, that "things became very heated."
"What more do you want?" cop kept yelling, then "You're only making it worse for yourself," which I took as a threat. /7 #bikenyc
— Greg Keller (@Greg_Keller) August 15, 2017
"There's a different cop who walks up with an already completed accident report, claiming that he was at the scene—I never saw him, there was only one cop when I was there," the Keller recounted. "So the cop says, 'We gave him a summons for failure to yield, what else do you want?' and I tell him it was an assault, it was fleeing the scene of an accident, and you need both sides of the story for the report."
"He said everything we need to know is already in the report," Keller recalled. "He was yelling it, and it was this obvious police tactic, where he raised his voice totally over-the-top. He kept telling me, 'You're making it worse for yourself.'"
Ultimately, Keller doesn't think he was able to convince the officer to add the hit-and-run allegations to the police report—though according to Steve Vaccaro, a safe streets advocate and attorney who frequently represents cyclists, it likely would not made a difference.
"What we know about hit-and-runs is that if it doesn't involve a fatality or a near-fatality, then it's not elevated to the collision investigation squad, and is the responsibility of a someone from the detective squad," Vaccaro told Gothamist. "And we've have had very inconsistent follow-through in various precincts in terms of detectives investigating hit and run crashes."
Representatives for the NYPD confirmed that Melendez had received a failure to yield infraction, but did not respond to a request for comment about Keller not being able to offer a statement. The failure to yield infraction—as opposed to the failure to yield misdemeanor—is supposed to be issued to motorists who violate the right of way of a pedestrian or cyclist without injury. The infraction typically carried a fine of around $100.
Phone calls made to a number Melendez gave police went unanswered.
"I wanted the full story recorded that it was an assault with his car, as far as I'm concerned, because he was mad that he couldn't pass me," said Keller. "Plus it just really bothered me that they only took the driver's side of the story."