The NYPD has arrested a driver for allegedly killing a 72-year-old cyclist in Midtown earlier this year. Police say that Kenneth Jackson was driving an oil truck on Eighth Avenue on the morning of February 4th when he turned left onto West 45th Street, hitting cyclist Chaim Joseph as he biked up the avenue shortly before 6 a.m.
Jackson, a 52-year-old Queens resident, allegedly drove away from the scene of the crash. He is charged with failure to exercise due care and failure to yield to a cyclist, both misdemeanors that carry a penalty of up to $500 in fines and a maximum 30 days in jail, under New York's Right-of-Way law.
Asked why Jackson wasn't charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury or death, which is a felony, an NYPD spokesperson referred us to the office of Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Vance's office said they could not provide any information on the case, pending Jackson's arraignment. (Jackson received a Desk Appearance Ticket.)
Police say that Jackson was driving the truck for Approved Oil Company of Brooklyn when he killed Joseph. Jackson is the third reported driver from Approved Oil to kill a pedestrian or cyclist in the last two years.
In an email, Approved Oil attorney J. Bruce Maffeo said, "There is no evidence that Ken Jackson was driving negligently or aware that he had hit the bicyclist who was dressed in dark clothes and traveling at night. As a result the police who investigated the incident declined to arrest him at the time and correctly saw the tragic incident as an accident—nothing more or less."
Maffeo added, "The charge against Ken involves an untested NYC statute that criminalizes any motor vehicle accident involving a fatality. While Ken and Approved Oil sympathize with the victim and his family, neither he nor the company acted negligently, much less criminally, in this case and intend to vigorously contest the charge."
Joseph Cutrufo, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, countered, "This crash happened in midtown Manhattan, a block from Times Square, where there's no shortage of light. And last we checked, it's not a crime to wear dark clothes. It is, however, against the law to kill a person with an oil truck."
Sarah Foster, 27, was killed by Approved Oil driver Steven McDermott as she crossed the street in Murray Hill, 11 days after Joseph's death. McDermott is charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
Danielle Leathers, 59, was killed by an Approved Oil driver as she crossed East 138th Street in the Bronx in March of 2017. It's unclear if the driver was charged in that case.
Days after Joseph was killed in Midtown, the NYPD set up stings near the spot where he was killed to ticket cyclists.
"Whenever there is a fatality... it’s a horrible situation, and we all feel it. That does not mean we’re going to stop enforcement," Mayor Bill de Blasio said when he was asked about the policy. "We need cyclists to obey the law, and of course enforcement is a part of that."