The NYPD Commissioner is defending officers against allegations of recklessness after an elderly nun was killed in Harlem by a robbery suspect fleeing cops in a minivan yesterday. The NYPD Patrol Guide states that "vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if [the] suspect is not immediately apprehended." But Commissioner Ray Kelly insists that police are not to blame for the accident, which killed Sister Mary Celine Graham and injured four others.
Witnesses say they saw an unmarked cop car with its lights flashing chasing the minivan moments before it hit another car and spun into a pedestrian median. But according to the NYPD's version of events, the officers were following protocol and trailing the minivan—which was going about 60 mph—from a distance. "Police cars did go south behind the car, but they were at least a block away," Kelly told reporters yesterday. "I wouldn’t consider that a close pursuit. I would consider it appropriate police tactics. It was an unfortunate series of events that caused a nun to lose her life."
Yesterday police arrested the driver, Dyson Williams, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder and robbery. It was initially reported that there was a another passenger in the van after Williams sped off, but now police say Williams was only other occupant. 18-year-old William Robbins was also arrested and charged with robber, he was the initial driver cops arrested when they pulled over the van.
Police had stopped the vehicle because it matched the description of the minivan used by two men who mugged a Columbia Law grad yesterday morning. Krishan Thakker, 21, was on his way from a bar-exam class when his backpack, containing a BlackBerry and $23, was stolen. He tells the Post, "If I'd decided to leave five minutes early or five minutes later, it could have changed the course of events. I feel personally very sorry for the victim's family. My heartfelt apologies go out to them. I feel like I was part of the same incident that killed the nun. It's terrible."