As I read the recent stories across the county of police officers using excessive force and taking the life of two men; I was reminded of the events of August 12th, 2012 right here in the Bronx. 28 year old, Eddie Fernandez, enjoying a day in his neighborhood was run down by a NYPD Police officer who decided to use his vehicle as a dangerous weapon and take the life of this young man.
Whether it was the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or the killing of Philandro Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, the ongoing debate rages around the country. When should or can a police officer use a level of force they know will or likely to cause serious injury. Under the general definition an officer may use deadly force when he or she is threatened with the same force or the perpetrator is acting in a way that causes a likelihood of serious injury to others.
When my firm was retained by Eusebia Ramirez to represent her on behalf of her son, Eddie Fernandez for the unlawful and excessive force used, I immediately hoped that some video would exist that would show what happened that day. Luckily, video surveillance does exist and the story it tells, rivals those recently shown around the country in the recent shootings.
The police officer, operating his police patrol vehicle, is seen driving down the street and appears to spot a dirt bike rider riding and pulling over to the sidewalk. The video then shows the officer approach in his vehicle and turn right into the bike, knocking it over. For what reason he did that and upon what justification is still a mystery. That young man, then runs down the street and does get on the bike of Eddie Fernandez. They begin to ride away. No pedestrians crossing, no one in harms way. They are riding away. The same officer, now makes a U-turn and in pursuing the bike which is in clear site, does not attempt to put its siren on, or flashing lights. Rather, the police officer appears to accelerate his patrol vehicle, with no lights or sirens, crosses into oncoming traffic and strikes the back of the dirt bike upon with Eddie Fernandez is riding. As Eddie does not have a helmet on, this sends Eddie into a pole at the corner where his head strikes the pole and he is rendered severely/fatally injured.
The video can be viewed here.
The officer who was driving finally stops his car and gets out. As Eddie not moving, the officer continues to handfcuff Eddie, without any attempt to ascertain whether he is conscious, suffering, or able to communicate.
Eddie Fernandez lost his life on that corner. His mother lost one of her two son’s and a young man’s life was taken away. Why…. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicde.
A lawsuit is pending in the Supreme Court, Bronx County where the law firm of Leav & Steinberg, LLP has sued the police officer and the NYPD for both negligence, recklessness, and federal civil rights violations. We look forward to discussing these facts with a jury and allowing them, as the country has seen recently, to determine what happened on that August day and whether the police officer used excessive force by using his car as a deadly weapon, despite not being threatened with deadly harm in any way.
To add insult to injury, the NYPD had indicated that they had a memo in place prior to this that given that many young riders were using the streets of New York to ride dirt bikes, Officers were instructed not to chase them as doing so would only be more dangerous. No memo can be found and no update to the patrol guide indicates same. Did they really have this in place or was there a unspoken rule, that allowed officers to use excessive force to “teach these kids a lesson”.