Brooklyn Heights

Drunk driver mows down woman on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights

Not the first death at this intersection

April 17, 2023 Mary Frost
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ATLANTIC AVENUE — A 31-year-old woman is dead and a neighborhood is in shock, after an alleged drunken driver sped through a solid red light on Atlantic Avenue on Sunday night at the dangerous intersection of Atlantic and Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights.

Police say that Bensonhurst resident Erick Taxilaga Trujillo, 27, driving a 2012 Volvo S60, was heading west at a high rate of speed when he plowed into Katherine Harris, 31. 

Harris, of Hyde Park, New York, was crossing the intersection walking south. The police report makes clear that Harris was doing everything correctly — walking inside the marked crosswalk and with the pedestrian signal. 

After striking Harris, Trujillo continued westbound on Atlantic Avenue and struck the rear of a 2018 Honda Accord, operated by a 40-year-old man, which was also traveling westbound in the right lane. 

Both vehicles veered to the right, and struck a restaurant’s outdoor dining structure on the north curb line, before coming to a rest. The operator of the Honda was not injured, police said.

According to the NYPD report, officers from the 84th Precinct discovered Harris lying on the roadway, with trauma to the body. She was pronounced deceased at the scene by EMS.

Cops said that Trujillo refused to take a breath test. He was taken into custody on Monday and charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault, driving while impaired and refusing to take a breathalyzer.

Workers rebuild the dining shed at Chez Moi. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Atlantic BID: Angry at another preventable death

According to the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District, the tragic accident took place at the same intersection where Brooklyn Heights resident Martha Atwater was struck and killed in 2013, and where local store owner Muyassar Moustapha was run down in 2015.

Emmy-award winning TV writer and producer Atwater, 48, was killed when an out-of-control pickup truck struck her as she stepped out of a cafe at the corner of Clinton Street and Atlantic Avenue. Atwater, who produced familiar children’s television shows such as “Clifford The Big Red Dog,” and “Goosebumps” had just bought cookies for the family at the cafe.

Moustapha was the owner of Oriental Pastry & Grocery, a family owned favorite on Atlantic Avenue for more than 60 years. The tragedy shocked those who knew him well, according to the Cobble Hill Association.

The Crashmapper app shows the history of crashes and deaths at the west end of Atlantic Ave. In Brooklyn Heights. Map courtesy of Crashmapper

“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of this young woman, and we are angered by this preventable death,” the Atlantic Avenue BID said in a statement Monday. 

“Our corridor is a Vision Zero Priority Corridor, but we feel like we’ve been given zero priority: in the past 5 years, our district has witnessed 3 fatalities; 52 cyclist injuries; 82 pedestrian injuries; and a total of 1800 crashes,” the BID said, quoting Crashmapper.

While the speed limit on Atlantic Avenue is 25 mph, which is also the citywide speed limit, enforcement is lax and cars frequently travel much faster.

The BID is calling for “mid-block crossings, red light cameras, slow turn infrastructure, and a comprehensive traffic safety plan so that we do not lose one more single life.”

The investigation remains ongoing by the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad.

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