It's been a year since Dulcie Canton was struck by a hit-and-run driver while cycling in Bushwick, suffering brain bleed and broken bones that took months to heal. But though Canton has possessed video evidence of the collision for nearly a year, and managed to track down the owner of the vehicle, the NYPD has never bothered to question him, telling Canton that investigators dropped the ball on her case.
Canton, 38, sustained a broken ankle, a broken shoulder that required surgery, and a concussion after she was struck on Bleecker Street near Wilson Avenue in Bushwick on the night of August 7th. Video surveillance shows a Chevrolet driving quickly down Bleecker Street, striking Canton and driving off without stopping:
A piece of the vehicle that struck Canton fell off the vehicle, and she and her attorney, Steve Vaccaro, managed to match its serial number to that of a car parked only a few blocks away from where Canton was hit. They were able to provide detectives at the 83rd Precinct with the name and address of the car's owner, Richard Rivera, Jr., in addition to the video evidence—but weeks went by and the officer in charge of Canton's case, a Detective Tallarine, did not interview him.
"Within a month after the crash, [Vaccaro] had emailed and called, he sent about three emails," Canton told Gothamist today. "When I called, I was told Detective Tallarine was on vacation."
About three months after Canton was struck, she and Vaccaro attended a community policing event, where they confronted officers for failing to pursue the person who struck her. Officers waved Canton off.
"They said that my case fell through the cracks," she told us.
According to Vaccaro, the NYPD did in fact reach out to Rivera after being repeatedly presented with the videos and the serial number for the damaged car part.
"We thought [the evidence] was enough for the NYPD to tell Mr. Rivera that they wanted to talk to him and they wouldn't take no for an answer," Vaccaro told us. "But when they said, 'Mr. Rivera, we want to speak to you about this,' as a result of our many letters and phone calls, he said no, and they said, Oh, okay."
Vaccaro says the NYPD didn't pursue it further.
"That's basically the NYPD's position, when you have that sort of evidence against the driver, it's voluntary for the driver to come in for an interview and speak with NYPD or not," Vaccaro said.
Though Canton, who was out of work for a month, racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills and therapy, she was thankfully able to settle with Rivera's insurance company. Still, Canton and Vaccaro say they would have liked to see some action on the part of the NYPD.
"Ultimately, we made successful recovery from [Rivera's] insurance to compensate Dulcie for her injuries. It took a lot longer than it would have otherwise, but it's also beside the point," said Vaccaro, who added that the District Attorney's office also failed to take meaningful action.
"Why did Mr. Rivera get away with no consequences?" Vaccaro asked. "It's because the NYPD doesn't take hit-and-runs seriously enough. And we think that it's a widespread problem with hit-and-runs that are not of the severity that draw the Collision Investigation Squad's attention."
Canton, who says she suffered post-traumatic stress after she was struck, finally got back on a bicycle a few months ago. She now volunteers for street safety groups like Transportation Alternatives to help other cyclists and pedestrians avoid suffering through the same ordeal she experienced.
"This year our focus has been on enforcement, education, and redesigning infrastructure to make the streets safer for everybody," Canton said. "It's pretty disheartening to see—there was a crash about a month ago at Barclays. A cyclist was killed and that driver wasn't charged. They're saying he had a seizure and I just don't get it."
When contacted for comment, the NYPD confirmed there "no arrests in regards to this incident." No other information was made available.