LONGWOOD, the Bronx — Questions remain after an NYPD SUV crossed over into oncoming traffic, ran into a car, and then hit a group of pedestrians on a corner Thursday, leaving ten people injured, some critically. Most of the victims remain in the hospital, with two in critical condition. Surveillance video of the incident provides evidence that police are using to investigate what went wrong, but some eyewitnesses say that the NYPD account of the situation doesn’t jibe with their own experiences.
Victor Betancourt and his friend Frankie Santos had been steps away from the crash at the corner of Westchester and Hoe avenues when it happened around 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.
“We just hear, ‘Boom!'” Betancourt said in an interview.
“It was right when it had happened,” said Santos.
The two men have lived on the block their whole lives. Like them, many who had come out to the scene said that it had been horrific.
Christopher Reyes was another of the witnesses. “There was bodies all over,” he said, “people crying, bleeding.”
Witnesses said that a 5-year-old girl had been in a hand cart, on the sidewalk, and her mother removed her seconds before the crash. Still, that girl was among ten people, including a two year-old passenger in the car that the police SUV hit, who had to be rushed to local hospitals.
On Friday, some neighbors left candles at the scene. They’d assumed that at least one of the people injured had died.
As of Friday evening, however, all had survived, but two of the patients remain in critical but stable condition.
PIX11 News has spoken with people in contact with some of the victims. They reported that while the situation was tragic and shocking, it appears that all of the victims will recover.
A variety of people in the neighborhood also made comments critical of the police officers assigned to the area.
“The 41 Precinct, they’re aggressive,” said Betancourt, an eyewitness. “It’s something that should be investigated.”
NYPD top brass have said they are investigating, and that the police vehicle involved had moved into oncoming traffic to respond to a call of a car theft in progress nearby.
Michael Graziano, another witness, questioned the need for the response that occurred.
“If it was a grand theft auto,” he asked, “is it worth hitting ten people in the midst?”
On Friday, an NYPD spokesperson said that the status of the case remained the same as it had on Thursday, the night it had occurred.
Jeffrey Maddrey, the NYPD chief of patrol, said at a news conference on Thursday that the collision happened while police were carrying out their duties.
“The officers were trying to do the right thing,” he said. “They were trying to prevent a crime in progress.”
He said that the officers involved were following procedure, including having the lights and siren on in the vehicle.
Surveillance video from the scene does not have audio, but does show that the NYPD vehicle’s emergency lights were flashing at the time of the crash.