A Shrine for Martha

DNAinfo writes about the tragic death of Martha Atwater, who was killed at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street Friday by an out of control SUV. Accompanying the piece are two photos of an impromptu shrine on the spot where the accident occurred.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.vaughn.100 Greg Vaughn

    SO SAD!! I saw the truck on the sidewalk. I’m so upset that a person was killed that way. Makes me understand the people who tell me to “live life while you have it”. It could’ve been any of us.

  • mlcraryville

    The best shrine for our murdered neighbor would be a thorough and open investigation of how and why the accident occurred. This to be followed by whatever retribution the driver should suffer if he was in any way responsible for this horrible death.

  • HenryAndHicks

    Someone on the scene said the driver was in diabetic shock.

  • TeddyNYC

    Is that what the driver said?

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Is it just me or does it bother anyone else that the NYPD has released no information about how this horrible event occurred? Presumably, since the NYPD determined “no criminality suspected,” the person who killed Martha Atwater is still free to roam our neighborhood streets with his weapon. At the very least, the public has the right to have answers to the following questions:

    – Who was the driver of the vehicle of that killed Martha Atwater. What is his name and where does he live?

    – Why exactly did the driver of the vehicle lose control?

    – How did the NYPD determine that the vehicular manslaughter of Martha Atwater was an “accident” and not the result of negligence? What evidence led the NYPD to this determination and the immediate exoneration of Martha’s killer at the scene?

    – Why isn’t our local press, or City Council member or District Attorney or the person who edits this blog demanding answers to these questions?

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Wow. Really? You removed my comment?

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.vaughn.100 Greg Vaughn

    I heard that as well.

  • Bklyn Hts Rez

    These questions MUST be answered or this senseless tragedy will happen again. And when it does, it won’t be an accident.

  • http://n8han.technically.us/ Nathan

    It bothers me as well. This can’t go on.

  • mlcraryville

    Absolutely on target. Where, for example, is Steve Levin, our City Councilman? Or the BHA? Is anybody out there???

  • mlcraryville

    Good questions all. Also, was any effort by the NYPD made to find witnesses at this busy, well-populated corner? If not, why not??

  • willowtowncop

    If you want a thorough investigation to be done you have to wait more than a week for the results. Some of you have no concept whatsoever of criminal culpability – someone has to 1. intentionally kill someone (e.g. run them over on purpose) 2. intentionally disregard a known risk and recklessly kill someone (e.g. drunk driving), 3. negligently fail to perceive a risk they should have perceived (e.g. checked that the brakes were working before driving a car). I haven’t heard any evidence of any of these three in this case, unless the driver knew he was prone to passing out while driving and drove anyway. The police/DA would have to be able to prove this before they can make an arrest. Strict liability for traffic accidents is in no one’s best interest.

  • Concerned

    Couldn’t agree more. How can they absolve the driver of criminal culpability on the spot? What through investigation could they have conceivably done? Was the car impounded to determine whether there was mechanical failure or any other evidence that could shed light on the cause of the accident? Were the video feeds of every single camera along the route of the car, i.e., proceeding along Clinton Street, across Atlantic Avenue, onto the sidewalk? Was the driver subjected to tests to determine presence of drugs that may have impaired performance? Were the medical records of the driver reviewed to determine whether he had diabetes? There is so much that we don’t know about the circumstances leading up to this excruciatingly tragic death. Then entire community deserves answers. As a separate matter, agree also that the BHA, as a singularly credible advocate for the Brooklyn Heights community, no less an entity on which the Ms Atwater served as a Board member, should ensure that our police officials, as prompted by our political leaders, provide full transparency on the details of this investigation and answers to the many questions that so many have in the wake of this tragedy.

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Exactly. It takes time to do a thorough investigation. Authorities should be checking this driver’s medical history, his mobile phone records, the vehicle’s blackbox data recorder and nearby video cameras. It takes time to do all of this, so, how in the world did the NYPD determine so quickly that the manslaughter of Martha Atwater was an “accident” with “no criminality suspected?” And why hasn’t the NYPD released any of the evidence on which they based their exoneration of the man who killed Martha?

    Let’s look at it this way: If a man were walking down Clinton Street legally carrying a properly licensed handgun and the man had some sort of seizure or blackout and the gun accidentally discharged and the bullet stuck and killed one of our neighbors — say, an Emmy-award winning mom of three, that man would be in jail right now awaiting a criminal prosecution.

    Why should it be any different when the weapon is a motor vehicle?

    Is anyone really OK with the fact that the NYPD, without much of any real investigation, exonerated Martha’s killer and now he is free to continue to roam our neighborhood streets with his weapon? He could be driving up Clinton Street right now for all we know. The NYPD has not even released his name.

    Are you really defending this insane policy, Willowtowncop?

  • ClintonAndAmity

    BHA has all of its resources tied up fighting public bike-share stations, I believe.

    A few months back Judy Stanton seemed very hot-and-bothered about the dangers that a bike-share station on Clinton Street might someday impose on pedestrians. Has she said even a word about Martha’s killing? Does the BHA have any policy ideas for how we might prevent future fatalities like this from happening, like, say, pedestrian safety bollards at dangerous corners? Could the BHA, perhaps, use its considerable resources and political clout to help get NYPD to release evidence to the public about who the driver was and why he lost control of his vehicle?

    Or, do we only hear from BHA when pedestrians face some potential future threat from bicycles?

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Exactly. Very well stated. Thank you.

  • mlcraryville

    This is defensive nonsense which has nothing to do with the facts that were ignored by the PD and that they were quick to 1. declare it an “accident” and 2. offer up a black out excuse among other things. I am with ClintonAndAmity 100%.

  • Joe A

    I’ve tried to explain this Willowtowncop but there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of the law by many that feel that because of this admittedly horrible and tragic event someone must be criminally liable.

  • Joe A

    No. You clearly do not understand the law. To make an arrest one needs probable cause that a crime was committed. No one has been exonerated. The investigation I am sure is ongoing. Should determination that a crime was committed the subject will be arrested.

  • Joe A

    What facts were ignored by the police? Do you know something about the accident that you would like to share?

    Who said the police “declared it an accident”?

    If the driver did indeed lose consciousness do you think that has any bearing on criminal culpability, or is it just an “excuse”?

  • willowtowncop

    They didn’t exonerate anyone yet. They are still investigating. The only thing that might prove criminal negligence is the driver’s medical records- which are privileged. So the police don’t have access to them. The best a black box could prove is speeding, which isn’t a crime – it’s a traffic infraction. If you think it should be a crime then take it up with the state legislature – there’s nothing the police can do about it. Cops can’t even write a ticket if they didn’t witness it – that’s in the criminal procedure law. I can’t imagine any one but the most devout anti-car zealot supporting making speeding a crime though.

  • AmityAndClinton

    We don’t know any facts. That’s exactly the problem.

    The NYPD hasn’t released the name of the killer or any of the evidence that exonerated him on-the-spot. They have only declared “no criminality suspected,” leaked a few choice details to the press suggesting the driver’s innocence, and that’s it. That’s all we know.

    One witness here in the Brooklyn Hts Blog comments section claims to have seen a shield or badge hanging from the neck of the driver who did the killing. Was it an off-duty cop? That seems like important information. Why is information about motor vehicle crime perpetrators held by the police more closely than, say, rape or robbery suspects? If this man stole an iPhone from Martha Atwater and the police caught him, his name would be released to the public immediately.

    What we know for sure is that there is a killer-driver who is still free to roam our streets with his weapon. The NYPD let him walk (or maybe even drive) away from the scene of a manslaughter.

    I’m not saying this case is particularly special. We know that this is all standard operating procedure at NYPD. If you ever want to murder someone in cold blood in NYC, use a car as your weapon, be sober and stay at the scene. The NYPD will, almost without exception, call the killing an “accident,” declare “no criminality suspected,” and get the traffic moving again as quickly as possible.

  • AmityAndClinton

    If you kill a pedestrian while speeding, texting, driving drunk or committing any other infraction in your car then, yes, that is a crime and a District Attorney can choose to prosecute it as such.

    That being said, the law is incredibly weak in cases of motor vehicle violence. If you ever want to murder someone in NYC, use a motor vehicle as your weapon, be sober and stay at the scene and show remorse, and you’ll most likely walk away with nothing more than a Failure-to-Yield summons, at most.

    To suggest, as you do, that it is not a crime to kill pedestrians while speeding is beyond sociopathic. It’s psychopathic.

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Sorry, Joe, you just have no idea what you’re talking about. Once NYPD says “no criminality suspected,” that’s basically it. That means there’s no meaningful, ongoing investigation and, short of a huge public outcry and massive political pressure, there will be no criminal case. You might want to familiarize yourself with how this works in NYC before you reply:


  • Somewhere South of Atlantic Av

    I did not know Martha but I am a Packer parent and worry relentlessly about that intersection. I have even threatened to walk my child to school until graduation. This is terribly sad and could have happened to any one of us or our children on that evening. My child walked by the accident 10 minutes later. While I agree there are many unanswered questions about the driver, focusing on him will not make this intersection safer. We need to get the DOT to look at traffic light timings, how to impede speeding, and other ways to make this and other intersections along Atlantic Ave safer for pedestrians both on the street and sadly on the sidewalk too.

  • Joe A

    You have it backwards my friend. In America one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Police need probable cause to arrest someone. They did not exonerate him but apparently there wasn’t immediate evidence of him having committed a crime.

    If you believe a crime was committed and he should have been arrested please tell me what the crime is and what leads you to believe the elements of that crime have been satisfied.

    I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. But just because something truly terrible happened does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.

  • Joe A

    I was a law enforcement officer for 20 years albeit not in NYC. I have handled many accidents, some fatal, and many in a supervisory capacity. I dealt every day of those 20 years with the Penal Law, Criminal Procedure Law and the Vehicle and Traffic Law and more importantly case law. Willowtowncop is a current NYC law enforcement officer. We are both telling you the way it is but i guess we both got it wrong and we’ll just have to defer to your greater expertise.

    So please tell me what the police should have charged this person with?

  • willowtowncop

    What’s your legal background, out of curiosity? I have a JD from Fordham. I have almost 15 years of experience in the criminal justice system, at the DA’s office and with the police department. What are your qualifications to pontificate on this matter? Because I can assure you you have no clue what you’re talking about.

  • ClintonAndAmity

    We have no idea what this person should be charged with because the NYPD will not make any meaningful facts about the case known to the public. But Vehicular Manslaughter would be an obvious place to start. Impounding this guy’s car and making sure he is not still driving on NYC streets would be the absolute bare minimum they could do.

    If Mrs. Atwater were killed with a gun (and even if the gun were fired by accident by an individual with a health condition), the perpetrator would be behind bars while the justice system sorted it all out and determined his guilt or innocence. I see no reason why it should be any different when the weapon is a motor vehicle.

    Your point seems to be: “That’s not how it is.” Thanks. I understand perfectly that this is not how the law in New York City and State currently treats cases of vehicular violence and manslaughter. My point is: This system is broken and it needs to change.

  • ClintonAndAmity

    Perhaps you are unable to grasp the straightforward and simple points I am making because you are part of the problem. New York State and City’s criminal justice system — the system you are part of — is profoundly broken when it comes to addressing motor vehicle violence. I understand that the NYPD was just doing its SOP when it let Martha’s killer drive off with his weapon. For all intents and purposes it is legal to kill in NYC when the weapon is a car. My point is: That’s wrong. This system needs to change.

    I have been working on these issues for years and have a number of qualifications and credentials. Perhaps most relevant: My grandmother was run over and killed by a car and I watched as the police, DA and the justice system allowed her killer to go free.

    Fortunately, there is growing pressure in NYC to change the way you guys do your business. Change can’t come soon enough.