SUV Driver Runs Over and Kills Senior in Queens — And is Actually Charged!

The fatal crash took place last week at the corner of Onderdonk and Gates avenues in Ridgewood. Photo: Google
The fatal crash took place last week at the corner of Onderdonk and Gates avenues in Ridgewood. Photo: Google

A driver who blew through a stop sign and fatally struck a senior citizen in Queens was actually arrested for the crime — a rarity in New York City.

Cops said they charged 21-year-old Brooklynite Raymond Mersier with failure to yield, failure to exercise due care and ignoring the stop sign at the scene of the crash on Dec. 11, when Mersier ran over Kwok Cheung, 63, of Manhattan, at the intersection of Onderdonk and Gates avenues in Ridgewood. Mersier, driving a fancy BMW SUV, was also charged with a violation for having tinted windows.

Cheung was taken to the hospital and died two days later.

Police declined to say why Mersier was charged when thousands of other drivers who kill and maim under almost identical circumstances are not. According to NYPD statistics, there have been more than 41,000 crashes this year alone that resulted in injuries or deaths — and failure to yield, failure to exercise due care, or running a light or a stop sign was the contributing factor in virtually every one of them (see chart below).

Yet only a few score drivers are ever charged in such crashes citywide.

contributing factorsIn Manhattan, as Streetsblog reported earlier this month, only 15 drivers have been charged in the thousands of fatal and injury-causing crashes this year, for example. At least five drivers weren’t even charged in the borough’s 21 fatal crashes this year.

Advocates hope that the charges against Mersier are part of a larger trend.

“Hopefully, it is indicative of a new trend, reflecting responsiveness to the public outcry about why killer drivers are permitted to drive away from fatal crashes,” said lawyer Steve Vaccaro, referring to so many recent cases that are so similar to the death of Kwok Cheung.

Indeed, there’s little in the police report to indicate why cops decided to throw the book at Mersier. According to police, he was driving southbound on Onderdonk Avenue at around 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 11. When he got to the four-way stop at Gates Avenue, he ignored the ubiquitous red octagon, and turned right — directly into Cheung, striking him “with the front of the vehicle.”

He remained on the scene and was charged. Two days later, Cheung died.

The area’s council member said Mersier should have been charged more seriously.

“This driver’s reckless behavior resulted in the death of an innocent,” Council Member Antonio Reynoso tweeted. “The punishment does not fit the crime — these charges are too light.”

Cheung’s death — plus the death of another Queens man who died the same day at the hands of a drunk driver — bring to 205 the total number of people killed on New York City roadways this year. That number is up from 192 over the same period last year, a 6.7-percent increase.

Streetsblog reached out to the Queens DA to see if additional charges would be added now that this crime is now potentially a vehicular homicide, but have not heard back. We will update this story if we do.