Family of 9-Year-Old Killed by Taxi Wants Cabbie's License Yanked
UPPER WEST SIDE — The intersection where Dana Lerner's 9-year-old son was hit and killed by a taxi early last month sits just steps outside her family's apartment. Walking by that corner is so agonizing that friends literally have to prop her up when she passes, she said.
But even more painful to Lerner is the thought that the cabdriver who struck her son is still allowed to get behind the wheel, she said in her first interview since the child's death.
"I feel betrayed," Lerner said about the NYPD's and Taxi and Limousine Commission's failure to take the cabbie off the road.
"When a cabdriver injures a pedestrian, there should be some sort of immediate review of culpability, followed by suspension," the mother said. "Not just a ticket."
Cooper Stock died on Jan. 10 after he and his father, Dr. Richard Stock, 51, were hit at West End Avenue and West 97th Street while holding hands. Cooper, a third-grader at The Calhoun School, died of his injuries soon after.
Driver Koffi Komlani, 53, was issued a summons for failure to yield to pedestrians, police said, but the Taxi and Limousine Commission hasn't taken any disciplinary action, according to TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg.
Friends and community members who knew Cooper — a perpetually upbeat, avid sports fan who loved to tell jokes — were stunned when they learned there isn't a system in place to immediately take the driver off the road.
"What if this cabdriver had kept driving and done the same thing the next day?" said Lerner, a psychotherapist who also has a 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Komlani, a new driver with only six months of experience and no violations on his record, has not driven since the accident, by his own choice, said Fromberg. Attempts to reach him by phone and at his last listed address were unsuccessful.
A traffic court conviction of failure to yield meant Komlani was hit with three points on his license for a 15-month period, but he is permitted to drive.
It would take a minimum of six points to earn him a 30-day suspension, or 10 points to force the TLC to revoke his driver's taxi license, Fromberg said.
Stock's family said that's not enough.
"When a police officer in the line of duty kills someone, that person is taken off duty and there’s an investigation — even if they're exonerated," said Cooper's uncle, Barron Lerner.
The family is calling for accountability, but Fromberg said that without criminal charges the TLC does not have the power to suspend Komlani.
"We would require some legislative or regulatory enabling mechanism in order to suspend automatically," he said.
This baffles Cooper's relatives, who said they feel like the buck is being passed.
"There should be a formal policy of action when something of this magnitude occurs. I don’t know that it’s our place to say what that should be. It should be commensurate with what occurred," Barron Lerner said.
The family is keeping all options for fighting back on the table, including suing the driver or suing the city, though they haven't taken steps in that direction yet, they said.
Even a civil suit would most likely not trigger license suspension or revocation, which can come only from criminal charges, Fromberg said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will aim to eliminate pedestrian deaths through a plan called "Vision Zero," and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has pledged to focus NYPD attention on traffic scofflaws.
Community members attended a vigil for Cooper and others killed recently nearby and demanded action from the Department of Transportation. The DOT released plans to make the intersections where pedestrians were killed safer.
While they weigh taking legal action, Cooper's family is taking steps to memorialize the child, including looking into having a street named for him and setting up a foundation in his honor with the help of The Calhoun School.
"I don’t want my son ever to be forgotten," Lerner said.