By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
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Jaime Conty Jr. was the name attached to the car. Neither of his first or last names are listed on any of the building's buzzers. A landline phone number associated with that full name just rings. A nearby business owner who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the groups of young men who loiter out front of this apartment cluster as "entry-level gangbangers"; on Tuesday, August 9, 2011, at approximately 11:25 p.m., there were angry-sounding voices audibly yelling from an upstairs window.
The NYPD officer assigned to the two-victim case was a Detective Almonte, who could not be reached for this article. (We were told he was on vacation.)
Michelle and James sat down at their Bushwick apartment to talk about the case with the Voice. A representative from Leav & Steinberg, the law firm handling their no-fault insurance suit, eavesdropped on speakerphone and hung up after an hour. (It was a summer Friday and you could tell the man was restless.)
"The police changed their story a few times," James said. "The first time they told us that night, the [car owner] left [a bar] with his friends, lost his keys, and went home. Later, when we called [Detective Almonte] back, maybe a week or so later and asked if he questioned [the car owner's] friends, he said, 'Oh, those weren't really his friends. He just walked home alone.' [The police] wouldn't tell us what bar or where or anything."
"Anytime we would press [Detective Almonte] for details, it was almost like he was annoyed with us," Michelle added.
"He would say stuff like, 'You trying to tell me how to do my job? You say I'm not doing my job?' " James said, Michelle nodding. "Then he would also say stuff like, 'You know, we got a lot of other cases, we're really busy,' kind of undermining our case. I'm sure they are busy, but still."
"After I got out of the hospital, I was calling [the 94th Precinct Detective Squad] all the time," Michelle remembered. "I was so upset and annoyed that obviously, all the evidence they could have gotten, they can't get now. I wanted answers: What did they try to do? What didn't they do? I'm laying here, I can't walk, I can't move without help, all I can do is think and think and think, over and over, like, 'Fuck this guy.' And I was asking [Detective Almonte], 'Did you check the video footage from the bar or along Franklin?' There're so many bars, so many cameras. Wherever the car was parked, from that point, to hitting us, to being abandoned—it must've been on tape somewhere?"
"Unless someone came through with that information completely, or [the driver] admitted to it, it didn't seem like they were willing to do any sort of investigation," James reiterated.
"Everyone who's a victim of an accident is entitled to have the police fairly and thoroughly investigate," interjected the Leav & Steinberg representative over the phone. "Sometimes they're looking for things and they don't have any help. Here, the witnesses are there, they found the car the same day, the bike was there, there were things to work with."
Michelle remembered why she stopped calling. "[Detective Almonte] was like, 'Listen, you should be lucky you're alive.' " This was the last time she spoke with anyone from the department. "It's like you can play Grand Theft Auto in the streets and hit real people and ditch your car and that's allowed," she said. "Honestly, I feel like the only way that this case would have gotten more attention is if I'd been brain dead or physically dead."
Reading stories of other bike accidents makes Michelle want to throw up. And there are many. Early this month, a 70-year-old cyclist got hit near Rockaway Beach by an unlicensed motorist; the 21-year-old operator was only charged for driving with a suspended license. The next day, a 29-year-old cyclist was run over in East Williamsburg by a truck driver, his helmet crushed; a police source told the Daily News that the bicyclist was at fault, so there were no charges. In a higher-profile instance, Ray Deter, the owner of a Lower East Side beer bar, died from injuries after being hit on Canal Street. The cops reportedly found marijuana in the Jaguar that hit him, yet as of now, no charges have been filed.
And then there are the hit-and-runs. "I just got slammed from behind by an unidentified driving object riding the right way down Wythe Avenue in the bike lane," recounts Fort Greene cyclist Serena Rio, 21, who got run down this past winter. "It was around 2 in the afternoon on a Friday, February 4. The driver fled the scene, there were no witnesses. I had a myriad of broken bones, knocked-out teeth, punctured lung, and a pelvis split in half. I spent two weeks in the ICU, two months in inpatient rehab, and three months, in total, unable to walk." Now working for the Bicycle Film Festival, she naturally feels pretty strongly about negligent operators. "It's an atrocity what happens not to only the bikers, but the lack of action taken against the villains in question."