As a family and school mourn the tragic death of a four-year-old, the 17-year-old driver who killed her during his unlicensed ride on the Upper West Side was arraigned yesterday. The lawyer for Franklin Reyes called his client a "good kid" and implied that the police were somewhat to blame, "The fact of the matter is, if he hadn't seen those lights flashing at him, he would not have bolted."
Police had observed Reyes, who was headed his high school, making a dangerous turn on Tuesday morning. When they pulled him over on West 89th Street, he then sped off, so police pursued him. At West 97th and Amsterdam Avenue, police say he was making a left turn at 34 MPH and lost control of the car, jumping a curb and pinning little Ariel Russo and her 58-year-old grandmother, who had been walking to her pre-school, against a building. Ariel died at St. Luke's Hospital and her grandmother was injured.
Lawyer Martin Schmukler told reporters, "Nothing like that ever happened in his life. He's not a violent kid." And Schmukler said in court, "He will forever live with the scar of what happened, knowing that he has no one to blame but himself. He doesn't blame the police officers for chasing him, even though they didn't have to chase him."
As for the police protocol, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly emphasized he believed the police did the right thing, "At this juncture, at this time, I see the actions of the police officers as being reasonable." He did add, "It's a very compacted period of time. I wouldn't call it a pursuit." However, one resident said, "Police officers ... know this area. They know there are schools. They should've let him get through the school zone."
Another person at the memorial at the Church of the Holy Name (Ariel attended the church's school) said, "It's so senseless if there was a police pursuit in this neighborhood when it's so congested and it's full of babies."