Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Lopamudra Desai
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Lopamudra Desai in Queens. Following a thorough investigation, which included review of security camera video, 911 calls, and crash reconstruction analysis, OSI concluded that criminal charges are not warranted in this case.
In the afternoon on May 23, 2021, an off-duty officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was driving her personal car to work. The officer was driving southbound on Corporal Kennedy Street and turning eastbound onto 43rd Avenue when her vehicle struck Ms. Desai, who was walking northbound in the eastern pedestrian crosswalk. Immediately following the collision, the officer exited her car and approached Ms. Desai to provide aid. A nearby witness who was a nurse joined the officer and advised against moving Ms. Desai. The officer, the nurse, and two other witnesses all called 911 to report the incident and request medical assistance. Ms. Desai was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead on May 25, 2021.
The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad (CIS) responded to the scene to examine the crash site and administer field sobriety tests (FSTs) to the officer, which she passed. The officer also submitted to an alcohol breath test and a drug test, which were both negative. A download of the officer’s car’s event data recorder showed no recorded events, and review of her phone’s call and text history showed no communication around the time of the incident apart from the call made to 911.
Under New York law, proving criminally negligent homicide requires establishing 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 engaging in unnecessarily risky behavior, nor that she was speeding or impaired, and therefore OSI concluded that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer.
The NYPD’s patrol guide requires that if qualified to do so, the patrol supervisor must administer an alcohol test to any police officer involved in a collision that results in a death. The officer involved in this incident was not breath-tested until two hours after the incident, when CIS arrived. While there is no evidence the officer in question was impaired or intoxicated, OSI recommends that all officers or civilians involved in a motor vehicle collision be tested on scene as soon as practicable to ensure the most accurate results.