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No Charges For Garbage Truck Driver Who Killed Greenpoint Cyclist Then Drove Away

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Ramirez on-shift at Paulie Gee's. (courtesy Jake Hales)

The NYPD declined to charge the garbage truck driver who struck and killed 27-year-old Neftaly Ramirez as he biked home from work in Greenpoint on the morning of July 22nd. Investigators determined that the driver "didn't realize" he struck Ramirez, according to the NYPD.

"Based on the speed of the vehicle, where the vehicle was the whole time, indicated that this person probably didn't realize he had hit the victim," NYPD spokesman Detective Ahmed Nasser told Gothamist.

Nasser added, "They are still looking into it at this time. Based on what they had thus far, there was no indication of criminality at this time."

The police's decision was first reported by DNAinfo. Nasser confirmed the decision to Gothamist, but could not confirm when the driver was interviewed, nor when NYPD investigators determined that no criminality was suspected in the case. The truck involved in the crash, operated by New Jersey-based Action Carting, was identified on July 25th.

DNAinfo reported last month that the company's drivers have killed four other pedestrians and injuring at least a dozen others since 2008.

Detective Nasser said that police based their determination on an in-person interview and a review of the truck's GPS, which indicated the driver continued picking up garbage after the crash. The District Attorney's office will continue to investigate, and look into the driver's record, he added.

The driver "was picking up garbage all night long... and he didn't realize that he hit [Ramirez]," Nasser said. "He continued to pick up the garbage from his route."

The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the case, a spokesman confirmed. "This case is under investigation," he said.

Ramirez, who lived in the East Village, was fatally struck shortly after 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 22nd. A preliminary report from the Collision Investigation Squad found that he was cycling on Franklin Street when a garbage truck driver, headed south, turned right on Noble Street and struck him. The driver then left the scene and Ramirez was pronounced dead.

Known as "Neffy" to his coworkers, Ramirez worked at the Greenpoint outpost of pizza restaurant Paulie Gee's for close to a year. "He was a very gentle and innocent young man," proprietor Paul Giannone told us last month.

"I'm very upset right now," Giannone told us Friday. "Because nothing is going to happen to this guy [the driver]."

"The guy said he didn't know, I think he's full of it," Giannone added. "I think he's a liar, and I hope he rots in hell."

According to a 2015 report issued by Transportation Alternatives, fewer than 1 percent of the drivers involved in roughly 4,000 hit-and-run crashes that year that resulted in injury or death were charged with a crime. Of 38 fatal hit-and-run crashes between July 2015 and June 2016, 13, or 34 percent, had resulted in arrest as of last October.

Steve Vaccaro, an attorney who often represents cyclists and pedestrians involved in traffic crashes, said he was not surprised by the outcome in Ramirez's case. According to the hit-and-run statute, he said, a driver can be charged when "he knows or has reason to know that he has injured someone with his vehicle."

However, in his experience, "In cases involving large trucks, the police will sometimes bend over backwards to excuse a driver who claimed ignorance of the collision by emphasizing how heavy the truck is, how rough the road was, and all of the vibrations that they believe led the driver to be reasonable in failing to notice that they ran over a person."

Vaccaro said Ramirez's case closely resembled that of Mathieu Lefevre, which is going to trail this September, though police did not find criminality.

"In that case, [evidence] included that the driver had passed the cyclist on the road before the cyclist caught up to the driver at a red light prior to the collision," Vaccaro said, adding, "Drivers are rewarded rather than punished for sticking their head in the sand."

We've reached out to the mayor's office and will update accordingly.