A pedestrian who was hit last week by a New Haven police car is planning to pursue legal action in response to the incident.
On Tuesday, La Tanya Autry, a fellow at the Yale University Art Gallery, was crossing Chapel Street at High Street when she noticed a police car coming toward her. Police say the officer was not traveling quickly, but Autry claimed the officer was driving faster than he should have been.
“It seemed really aggressive. And then [the police car] just hit me on the side,” Autry said. “I bounced up and got hit on the front, and then I fell on the ground. The driver never came over or asked if I was okay.”
Autry said that while she was still on the ground, an EMT told her that Autry did not “want anyone to lose [his or her] job over this.” Now, Autry said, she is preparing to meet with an attorney, partially because witnesses have told her that the officer in question was on his cell phone at the time of the collision. Hiring a car accident attorney is advised if you have been injured by a negligent or distracted driver.
The name of the police officer in question has not been released to the public.
In a press release from the New Haven Police Department, spokesman David Hartman defended the officer, noting that a review of surveillance video indicates that Autry was outside the available crosswalk when the collision occurred. Further, Hartman wrote, the officer had a green signal and the right of way. As a result, Hartman said Autry “has been found at fault for unsafe use of a highway by a pedestrian.”
However, Autry said she recalls being in the crosswalk on Chapel Street when she began to cross. As she reached the midpoint of the street, she said, the car began to move toward her. At first, she thought the officer simply wanted her to walk faster — but the vehicle never slowed down, she said. According to the press release, the officer was not responding to an incident and did not have his siren or emergency lights on. Still, Autry plans to pursue legal action, in part because she believes the officer was on his cell phone when his car struck her.
But Yale Police Sergeant Sabrina Woods said a Connecticut statute allows for police officers to be on their cell phones in certain circumstances.
“It is legal for law enforcement to use their cell phones while driving as long as they are working in their capacity,” she said. “So as long as they are on the phone for something work-related, it is legal.”
According to Autry, when she spoke with police officers the next day, they said the department would investigate why the officer was on his cell phone and give him a verbal warning for failing to demonstrate due diligence in not hitting pedestrians. It is unclear, though, whether there is an ongoing internal investigation surrounding the incident, as well as who within the police department reviewed the surveillance video. Hartman could not be reached for further comment regarding the incident.
“[The officer] probably didn’t mean to hit me,” Autry said. “He just wasn’t paying attention because he was on the phone.”
Autry was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital in an ambulance soon after the accident. She said she sustained multiple contusions on her body, from her shoulders to her legs, as well as a sprained ankle. Hartman said in the press release that the leg and arm injuries Autry sustained were not life-threatening. Autry’s medical bills will be covered by her health insurance, she said.
Christopher Bowman ’18, who witnessed the aftermath of the incident, said Autry remained on the ground for approximately 10 minutes in front of the stationary police car, which was positioned well beyond the crosswalk.
Amanda Bosland ’19, who observed the incident from outside of the Yale University Art Gallery, said paramedics arrived within five minutes of the incident. She added that the scene grew chaotic almost immediately.
“She was screaming and people were running over,” Bosland said.
The police officer driving the vehicle was not injured, and the car did not sustain any significant damage, according to Hartman’s release.