Video Shows Police Car Without Its Lights On Before Student is Struck

By Jeanmarie Evelly on August 21, 2014 4:50pm 

Ryo Oyamada
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Vimeo/Vaccaro and White

QUEENSBRIDGE — A newly released video shows an NYPD patrol car without its emergency lights on in the moments before a Japanese student was struck and killed in Queensbridge last year.

But the attorney for Ryo Oyamada, says that a key piece of the New York City Housing Authority surveillance video, showing the aftermath of the crash, is missing. 

Oyamada, 24, was killed on Feb. 21, 2013, when he was struck by a police car that was responding to a 911 call, officials said at the time.

The newly released 3-minute video, originally reported by Gothamist, was obtained from NYCHA via a Freedom of Information Law request said Oyamada family lawyer Steve Vaccaro, of the law firm Vaccaro and White.

The videos were taken by two NYCHA surveillance cameras, according to Vaccaro, and show oscillating views of two different intersections near where the crash occurred starting around 12:42 a.m., according to the time stamps, about 3 minutes before the time of the crash. 

Vaccaro says time stamps on the videos indicate that they're not synchronized with one another.

The second video, on the right side of the screen, was shot from the intersection of 12th Street and 40th Avenue, and shows Oyamada walking down 40th Avenue "proceeding toward the location of the crash" around 30 seconds into the video, Vaccaro said.

The first video on the left, meanwhile, was shot from the intersection of 10th Street and 40th Avenue, according to Vaccaro. About a minute and a half into the footage, a police car is seen driving east on 40th Avenue and crossing 10th Street, and does not appear to have its emergency lights on.

Oyamada was struck while crossing 40th Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets, police said at the time.

While Vaccaro said he has not "definitively confirmed" that the police car depicted in the first video is the one that struck Oyamada, he thinks "it's a likely candidate."

"We can't confirm it, because the video has been cut off," he said. "Had an additional 10 seconds of video been extracted during the course of the investigation, we think it would have shown the scene of the crash."

Vaccaro said the camera footage in the minutes before the incident "clearly captures within its field of vision the scene of the crash."

"Yet the person who made the extract for the NYPD, which ended up becoming the only thing preserved by NYCHA, decided not to capture or extract images showing the immediate aftermath of the crash," he said.  "Why they did that, I don’t understand."

In the first video on the left, in the moments after the patrol car drives out of view, the camera rotates back towards 10th Street, and the reflection of flashing lights can be seen. According to a report from Gothamist, this matches accounts of witnesses who said the patrol car activated its lights after the crash took place.

NYCHA referred questions about the video to the NYPD, which did not immediately respond to emailed questions. The city's Law Department did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Vaccaro said Oyamada's family, who lives in Japan, feels the video "really casts doubt on the NYPD's story."

The family filed a lawsuit against the city last year.

"The family has always wanted to get to the truth of how their son died," Vacarro said, saying they had been "offended" by the way they were treated by the NYPD in the wake of the crash.

"There was no disclosure of evidence, coupled with a very firm assertion that it was Ryo’s fault — that the vehicle had its turret lights on and that Ryo should have seen it, and for a year or more the family was waiting to see the evidence."

The status of the officers involved in the crash was not immediately clear.

An $8 million federal lawsuit is pending.

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