Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Chatuma Crawford

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Chatuma Crawford in Cicero, Onondaga County. Following a thorough investigation, including review of physical evidence, eyewitness accounts, crash reconstruction analysis, and body-worn camera (BWC) footage, OSI concluded that the officer involved in this case did not commit a crime.

In the evening of December 17, 2021, an off-duty police officer with the Town of Cicero Police Department (CPD) was driving with a passenger in an SUV on Northern Boulevard in Cicero. According to the officer, while he was driving in the left lane, he noticed that a car was stopped on the right shoulder of the road and that a person was standing outside the car on the driver’s side. After he passed the stopped car — while staying in the left lane — he hit something with his car. The officer stopped the car and immediately called 911. The officer and his passenger both later said they did not see anything in front of the car prior to impact. An off-duty member of the Syracuse Police Department, responding CPD officers, and paramedics performed life-saving measures, but Mr. Crawford was pronounced dead at the scene.

Based on the medical examiner’s report and accounts from several witnesses, Mr. Crawford was dressed in all dark clothing and there were no streetlights along Northern Boulevard. The person the officer had seen standing outside the stopped car on the right shoulder of the road said that Mr. Crawford threw a cellphone in the street towards the left lane of traffic (where the officer was driving) and was walking towards the cellphone to retrieve it when he was struck. Based on the location of injuries to Mr. Crawford’s body, the medical examiner said it was likely that Mr. Crawford was bent over at the time of the collision.

As part of the investigation, the New York State Police conducted a collision reconstruction that concluded that the officer was traveling at a reasonable speed, was not impaired, and that the lack of street lighting in addition to Mr. Crawford’s dark clothing contributed to the officer’s inability to see Mr. Crawford.

The officer also submitted to an alcohol test following the incident, which was negative.

Under New York law, proving criminally negligent homicide requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would occur; that the failure to perceive the risk was a gross deviation from a reasonable person’s standard of care; and that the person engaged in blameworthy conduct. In this case, there is no evidence that the officer was speeding or impaired, and therefore OSI concluded that criminal charges for the officer are not warranted.