Nearly two and a half months after Japanese student Ryo Oyamada was killed by a cop car in Queens, the Oyamada family's attorney says the NYPD still refuses to release any information that might shed light on the 24-year-old's death; now, he and the Oyamadas are suing the city for $8 million, citing gross negligence on the part of the patrol car's driver, and they're demanding the NYPD disclose any surveillance tapes or other evidence they're withholding from the night of the crash.
Oyamada, who lived in Queensbridge at the time of his death, was struck by a patrol car in his neighborhood just after midnight on February 21st; though the NYPD's accident report maintained that the car—which the NYPD says was responding to an emergency call at the Queensbridge projects nearby—was traveling with its emergency lights "engaged", various witnesses reported that the car had neither its lights nor its siren on. Attorney Jeffrey Kim says he believes the NYPD has surveillance video that would confirm whether or not the car's lights were on, in addition to the speed of the car and whether or not Oyamada was jaywalking when he was hit—the accident report alleges that Oyamada was crossing in the middle of the street. But the NYPD has withheld all evidence from the family, and Kim says they will continue to withhold it unless he can obtain it through litigation.
"When I interviewed the Oyamadas, they were told by the police officer when they came to the precinct that there was surveillance video," Kim told us today. "If the other side has anything that could shed light on this, by federal [lawsuit] discovery, they'd have to disclose that." In March, local blog Queensbridge.us reported that an NYPD officer said the department "has NYCHA security video showing that RMP's lights were flashing when victim was struck."
The complaint, which names the city, the NYPD and patrol car driver Daren Ilardi as defendants, alleges Ilardi operated the vehicle in a "gross and negligent manner," and that Oyamada was a "lawful pedestrian" at the time of impact; surveillance video "would contribute substantially into finding out how and why the accident happened," Kim said. And though the case isn't necessarily a federal matter, Kim says the rules governing federal discovery are stricter than those in city court, and he wants to avoid running into the same problems faced by the family of cyclist Mathieu Lefevre, which battled over evidence disclosure with the NYPD for nearly a year.
Kim says he and an accident reconstruction expert will also examine the patrol car for further evidence later this month. He also noted that several key witnesses in the case were not cooperating with him. "I would ask anyone with firsthand knowledge of the accident to come forward and help," he said. A funeral for Oyamada was held in his native Japan last month, with over a hundred friends and family members in attendance.