Kings County’s top prosecutor must probe the medical history of the woman who last Monday killed two children after she ran a red light and collided with them in Park Slope before he can charge her, he said.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez indicated that a seizure may have led Staten Island resident Dorothy Bruns to plow her Volvo sedan into the kids and their mothers, who survived along with another struck man, and said he is examining the motorist’s health records to determine whether her decision to get behind the wheel constitutes a criminal violation of the law.
“It’s a real tragedy, but we have to make sure this woman should have been driving in the first place,” Gonzalez said.
Various reports citing anonymous law-enforcement sources indicate that Bruns, who fatally hit 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein as they crossed Ninth Street at Fifth Avenue with the other victims, suffered from numerous medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis.
If true, the deadly crash mirrors a January 2017 incident in East Flatbush that left pedestrian and father Marlon Palacios dead after a driver diagnosed with multiple sclerosis plowed into him at high speeds on Linden Boulevard. Gonzalez charged that motorist with reckless manslaughter in February, after investigators alleged that his neurological disorder directly contributed to the crash — and that he ignored his doctor’s orders not to get behind the wheel because of his condition.
And the district attorney’s investigators can now be expected to comb Bruns’s medical past to find out whether doctors issued her similar warnings before she drove into the victims, potentially issuing subpoenas to uncover documents that could be used against her, according to one personal-injury lawyer.
“They’re going to be talking to doctors, subpoenaing records, looking for documentation of that,” said Daniel Flanzig, a Manhattan-based attorney who represents pedestrians and cyclists.
Prosecutors may also investigate whether Bruns suffered previous seizures or other debilitating episodes, and if she herself could have known that her physical health could affect her ability to drive, Flanzig said.
“If you know with some reasonable degree that your ability to operate a vehicle is compromised, it can still rise to that level of being reckless, even without a doctor,” he said.
But if the alleged seizure that caused Bruns — whose driver’s licence was revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles after last week’s collision at the urging of police — to lose control of her vehicle in Park Slope is deemed an isolated incident, the district attorney may find it harder to build a case, according to Flanzig.
Gonzalez’s decision not to immediately charge Bruns after the deadly crash followed his similar reactions in the wake of other fatal collisions in the borough.
Last month, he did not charge the United Parcel Service trucker who hit and killed a 27-year-old woman crossing Ashland Place at DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene, even though police said the victim had the right of way at the time of the incident.
In January, oil-truck driver Philip Monfoletto ran down 13-year-old cyclist Kevin Flores while behind the wheel of his big-rig in Bedford-Stuyvesant, killing the boy. Gonzalez slapped Monfoletto with a criminal-misdemeanor charge for operating the heavy-duty vehicle with a suspended license, but failed to bring felony charges against the trucker, whose license had been suspended nine times when the collision occurred — one suspension short of the 10 needed at the time of any arrest to warrant more serious consequences.
And last July, Action Carting garbage-truck driver Jose Nunez smashed into cyclist Neftaly Ramirez, killing him before driving away without alerting authorities. Separate investigations by the police and the district attorney, however, concluded that Nunez didn’t know he ran over Ramirez, and the motorist walked away with a summons for driving the truck without the correct class of licence.
But the intense media attention generated by outrage over the Park Slope crash that killed young Lew and Blumenstein — and left the girl’s pregnant mother, Tony Award–winning stage actress Ruthie Ann Miles, critically injured — may mean the difference between a slap on the wrist or a felony indictment for Bruns, according to Flanzig.
“From my experience with district attorneys, they tend to be very responsive when there’s a public outcry,” the lawyer said. “You’re not going to see Gonzalez back away from this.”