Contradictory Reports Released From File on Fallen Cyclist

February 2, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Zach Campbell

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — Another layer was added to the case of Mathieu Lefevre last week when the NYPD released to his family surveillance videos taken near the site of his fatal crash.  

After months of letters, requests and an ongoing legal battle under the state Freedom of Information Law, this disclosure, according to the family’s lawyer, provokes far more questions than it answers.

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Mathieu Lefevre was a 30-year-old artist from Quebec living in Brooklyn. He was struck and killed by a crane truck last October while cycling on Morgan Avenue in Bushwick. The driver, later identified as Leonardo Degianni, left the scene without reporting the crash.

This much is said in the police report. Questions start to arise when comparing the official descriptions of the crash and the surveillance videos, and the videos themselves.

The two descriptions of the video evidence issued by the NYPD contradict one another and neither portrays what is seen in the videos, which have now been made public.

One description details a cyclist who “rode directly into the side of the truck as it made a right turn,” while the other says Lefevre was “struck by the passenger right side of Vehicle #1 [Degianni’s truck]” and then was “ejected from the bicycle and thrown into the roadway and out of the view of the video.”

The videos, as provided, show no crash at all. Degianni’s truck appears at one point, and as does a cyclist, but what followed is not in view.

“The key discrepancy that is troubling to us is that the video tape does not depict the events that the police officers described,” said Steve Vaccaro, the Lefevres’ lawyer. “One description refers to two impacts, another describes a single, different impact and neither video actually shows any contact between cyclist and truck.

“I have asked the NYPD to certify in writing that we have received complete and accurate records,” said Vaccaro. “They have failed to respond.”

Vaccaro said he suspects  there is more evidence than what has been provided to the family. More will become apparent, he says, at the family’s court hearing for their lawsuit under the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), in February.

The NYPD has not responded to the Eagle’s requests for clarification.

The Kings County District Attorney’s office is also conducting its own investigation, said a spokesperson for the office. He added that doing so is standard procedure for traffic fatalities.

The Lefevre family has also pointed out that there were no photos of the crime scene in the file provided to them by the NYPD. Vaccaro explained that, included in the file was a checklist of the equipment that the Highway Patrol Unit investigating the crash carried with them. Their camera was described as “not working properly.”

Despite that, there is evidence of photos and other video of the crash scene. While the Brooklyn DA’s office would not comment, the chief of the DA’s vehicular crimes bureau, Craig Esswein, confirmed to Streetsblog, a transit blog that has followed Lefevre’s case closely, in January that there is in fact photographic evidence and more video being reviewed as part of the investigation.

The family’s lawyer maintains that, if there is more evidence, it must be given to the family per their FOIL request. The next hearing in their FOIL lawsuit against the NYPD will take place later this month.

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