Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Amos Domfeh
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Amos Domfeh in Dutchess County. Following a thorough and comprehensive investigation, which included review of security camera footage, crash reconstruction analysis, witness interviews, and phone records, OSI concluded that there is insufficient evidence to charge the deputy involved in this case with a crime.
On the evening of September 16, 2021, a deputy sheriff with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) was driving south in her patrol car on Violet Avenue in Poughkeepsie when she struck Mr. Domfeh, who was crossing Violet Avenue from east to west. After the collision, the deputy radioed for medical assistance before getting out of the car to administer first aid to Mr. Domfeh. EMS arrived and transported Mr. Domfeh to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Approximately three hours later, the New York State Police (NYSP) Collision Reconstruction Unit arrived at the scene to examine the crash site and administer a breath test to the deputy, which was negative for the presence of alcohol in her blood. Based on analysis of video footage and reconstruction of the crash, the deputy was driving between seven to 14 MPH above the posted speed limit of 35 MPH when she crashed into Mr. Domfeh.
The autopsy report concluded that Mr. Domfeh’s cause of death was blunt force injuries and the manner of death was an accident. A review of the deputy’s cellphone records showed that she did not send or receive any phone calls or text messages around the time of the collision. In addition to the absence of a streetlight and crosswalk in the area, there is also a rise in the road that makes it difficult for drivers to see pedestrians.
Under New York law, proving criminally negligent homicide requires evidence that a person failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would occur and that the failure to perceive the risk was a gross deviation from a reasonable person’s standard of care. In addition, case law requires proof of “blameworthy conduct” that turns speeding into “dangerous speeding.” There was no evidence in this case that the deputy was not driving in the appropriate lane or that she was impaired or intoxicated. Although the deputy was driving above the speed limit, there is no indication that she was engaging in any blameworthy conduct. Given the circumstances and evidence, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the deputy committed a crime, and therefore criminal charges could not be pursued in this matter.
While the deputy did not show any signs of intoxication at the time, she was not issued a breath test until three hours after the incident. To ensure accuracy and assure public trust, OSI recommends that NYSP and DCSO hold law enforcement to the same standards as civilians by breath testing their members as quickly as practicable after every serious motor vehicle collision.