Albany Pedestrian Injury Lawyer Explains Cobleskill Bystander Death in Police Pursuit
A pedestrian death during a police chase in Cobleskill underscores the inherently risky tradeoff between bystander safety and police exemption from speeding laws during criminal pursuit and other emergencies.
At around 10 PM on Friday, November 9, 2018, two Cobleskill Police officers in separate vehicles began pursuit of a car observed to be speeding and running a red light on rain-slicked East Main Street. In the area of 682 East Main, pedestrian Gerald Roldan III, 26, entered the roadway and was struck by the lead police SUV. Police then halted their pursuit, requested Emergency Medical Services police units, and began administering CPR to the victim. Roldan was transported to Cobleskill Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police did not say whether their SUV had its lights and sirens activated or at what speed it was traveling.
The officer who struck Roldan voluntarily submitted to alcohol and drug screening; the alcohol screening came back negative. He was placed on administrative leave.
Cobleskill Police Chief Richard Bialkowski said the state police and the Schoharie district attorney’s office are jointly investigating the incident.
The Effect of Police Pursuits in New York State
According to a study by the University of Washington, police pursuits result in approximately 300 fatalities each year; roughly one-third of the victims have no involvement in the chase.
However, there is a high bar for pursuing a claim against police for their liability in pedestrian crashes during pursuit.
Drivers of emergency vehicles have a primary obligation to respond quickly to preserve life and property and to enforce criminal laws. In recognition of this, New York state enacted a provision of Vehicle and Traffic Law, § 1104, which conditionally exempts drivers of emergency vehicles from certain traffic laws when involved in emergency operations.
Is a Pedestrian Injury Lawsuit in Order?
In the recent Cobleskill fatality, or any other similar bystander death resulting from a police pursuit, plaintiffs seeking to hold the police liable in a civil action would have to establish that the officer acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Lawyers representing victims or their families in such a pedestrian injury lawsuit would seek answers to several questions. Did the police have their lights and sirens operating? How fast were they traveling (the event data recorder in the cruiser will have that information), and was the speed justified under the conditions? Did they slow down at intersections? And was the pursuit in any way in violation of the department’s pursuit policies?