The NYPD is investigating a complaint against the department after an officer allegedly let the driver of a suspected hit and run vehicle slip away during an interrogation.
On January 11, 2016, 63-year-old Cindy Klumb was struck by a vehicle outside a Key Food grocery at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Ryerson Street. Klumb tripped in the crosswalk only to be clipped by an oncoming car as she tried to right herself. She went down face first into the pavement, losing her glasses in the process. The driver stopped approximately 50 feet up the road and rushed back to help Klumb along with other onlookers.
An ambulance arrived with Officer Orlando Vargas and began to assist the victim. Klumb insists the two closest stop lights in either direction were red meaning the driver did not have the right of way. When Officer Vargas confronted the suspect, the man said a car in front of him hit Klumb.
As the EMTs loaded Klumb into the ambulance she said, “[The driver] looked relaxed when Vargas got there. It was almost like they had seen each other before.” Right after that, Vargas let him go free.
Witness John Cisneros told reporters he saw the driver flash a badge to Vargas at which point Vargas left the driver alone.
Klumb was taken to Woodhull Medical Center in Bushwhick with two broken ribs, a concussion, and trauma to her neck. Emergency room doctors told her that her rib was inches from severing her spine. She also had trouble lifting her right arm above her belly-button.
Officer Vargas’ crash report lists the incident as a hit-and-run but contains no description of a vehicle or driver, and no record of him having interviewed witnesses.
Klumb’s lawyer, Dmitry Levitsky, told Gothamist that NYPD detective Charles Sperco actually told him the department knows the identity of the driver as an auxiliary cop.
Levitsky said, “Any contacts I’ve ever had with police were nothing but pleasant. That’s the reason why I’m so outraged, not just as a legal professional but as a citizen, and as a resident of Brooklyn. In my opinion, it is despicable what this officer did. This whole notion of blue wall of silence is not alien to me.”
The lawyer claims traffic camera footage could show a clear picture of what transpire but the police refuse to turn the video over to the public. Levitsky believes the NYPD is covering up the accident for the auxiliary cop.
The NYPD told reporters an internal investigation is ongoing but would not provide further details. Klumb still spends her time working for the Pratt Institute though can no longer engage in some of the more laborious duties of her job.
“I can do a little bit of watercolor, a little bit of drawing, but unless physical therapy fixes my arm, my painting days are over,” she said. Klumb fears the cost of the medical bills initially covered by insurance may be dumped back on her.