From New York Newsday, Sept. 27:

Off-duty cop under fire for accident


The witnesses’ names were not known Monday, but the stories they told painted starkly different pictures of how a girl died Friday night, and they could determine the legal fate of an off-duty police officer.

Just before 10:30 p.m., Michael Carlo, an off-duty narcotics detective, was driving his 1997 Jeep Cherokee north on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, his pregnant wife in the passenger seat, when he struck Virginia Verdee, 12, who was returning home from dance practice at a nearby church.

That much is undisputed by the victim’s family and the Police Department. After that, the narratives diverge and take sharply different paths.

The Verdee family and its attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, contend that Virginia was walking in the intersection when Carlo, who was driving erratically, slammed into the girl.

They cite a witness, a motorist who spoke to one of Virginia’s sisters, Aqueelah Richardson. According to Richardson, the unnamed witness said Carlo cut him off then proceeded to speed ahead.

Police say the exact opposite. They say an unnamed witness told investigators Virginia was not crossing at the intersection and physical evidence supports that account.

“We have an independent witness who puts the girl 30 feet from the intersection,” said Deputy Chief Michael Collins, “and that the cop proceeded through a green light.”

The victim’s family held an emotional news conference at their lawyer’s Downtown Brooklyn offices yesterday, calling for an independent investigation by the Bronx district attorney’s office.

Amid pained moans and tears, the family described a vibrant, ebullient child with an artistic flare. She wrote stories, performed in plays, participated in the chess team, sketched.

“If you were sad, she would come up to you and demand you be happy,” said Virginia’s oldest sister, Charlene Richardson. “Now that is gone for me. All I have is the memory.”

So overcome with grief that she could barely speak, Virginia’s mother, Gloria Richardson, recounted the last time she saw her daughter. Virginia was leaving for church when she demanded Virginia come back and give her a hug and kiss.

“She did and said ‘I love you’ and I said ‘God bless you,’ and I come home from work and she’s gone,” the mother said. “Gone.”

Rubenstein said he spoke to representatives of the Bronx district attorney’s office about a deeper investigation. He said if recklessness played a role in the accident, the officer could face felony charges.

Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, said prosecutors have asked that all witnesses come forward to be interviewed.

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