A surveillance video clip of what appears to be a pedestrian calmly eating pizza moments after an unlicensed driver fatally struck a 30-year-old woman and injured two others on the sidewalk behind her has sparked heated debate about whether she should have offered her assistance and whether she should be criticized for walking away from the crime scene.
Some Twitter and Facebook users hold the bystander accountable for her decision to walk away from the crash as others rushed to help.
"Your first reaction should always be 'Can I be of any assistance?'" wrote one Facebook commenter on DNAinfo's page. "When the emergency responders get there then you walk away. At the very least be a comfort to someone, hold their hand, it may be their last moment on earth."
A few commenters called her "heartless," suggesting that the least she could have done was call 911.
Some critics went so far as to characterize the video as disheartening evidence of New Yorkers' jadedness and, more universally, man's indifference to his neighbor's distress in modern times:
This sums up the current state of humanity pretty nicely https://t.co/dNF1rJ4oLl— Dan Amira (@DanAmira) December 7, 2015
The social phenomenon of witness inaction in emergency situations is called the "bystander effect," a term coined by social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley after the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City in 1964. Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment while bystanders, concluding from their neighbors' passivity that their help was not needed, failed to call the police.
Other commenters on social media defended the pizza-eating witness, arguing she was under no legal obligation to aid the three crash victims and that the best she could do was to make room for professional first responders.
"There were others there to help," Carmen Casado wrote. "Let them be heroes."
"It looks like there were a few people already responding. In a situation like that, if you don't have skills to offer, it's best to stop rubbernecking and get out of the way," added Caroline Nagy.
At least one viewer suspected the woman may have been intoxicated:
@DNAinfo not an excuse, however her gait looks like she might've been drunk— Sam Panini (@SampathPanini) December 7, 2015
A number of viewers identified with the witness and her inaction.
I know I say "me" to a lot of things but... this... this is me. https://t.co/5G0Z4N5hEg— tragic mulatto (@sweatpantspapi) December 7, 2015
This is something I'd do. https://t.co/CxJdHYSp5K— Syn (@synshow) December 7, 2015
Some urged the public to focus on the culpability of the driver arrested and charged with driving without a license or insurance, Marlon Sewell. Sewell hit three pedestrians after swerving right to avoid another vehicle in front of him and driving up onto the sidewalk near South Portland Place.
One of them, Victoria Nicodemus, 30, of Brooklyn Heights — was pronounced dead at Brooklyn Hospital.
"Let's discuss the real issue of people driving recklessly! this happens too often!!!!!" wrote one Facebook user.