NYPD Accused of Coverup in Death of Japanese Student

By Kai Wright Aug 21, 2014

Meanwhile, back in New York City…yet another questionable death at the hands of NYPD. Ryo Oyamada, a 24-year-old from Japan who was studying in the U.S., was struck and killed by a speeding patrol car in February 2013. At the time, NYPD said the police cruiser was rushing to respond to a 911 call and had its sirens flashing. Now, more than a year later, evidence emerges that contradicts that account and strongly suggests a coverup to avoid holding the officer accountable in Oyamada’s death, Gothamist reports.

Witnesses at the time of the death told Gothamist and other local media that the officer, Darren Ilardi, didn’t turn on his flashing lights until after hitting Oyamada. After the accident, which took place in the early morning hours near a public housing complex in Queens, witnesses gathered around and responded angrily. They were quickly dispersed and never interviewed for the police report, according to Gothamist. Now, Oyamada’s family lawyer has obtained through Freedom of Information requests a video of the accident recorded by the public housing complex’s security cameras. The video is an edited compilation of footage from two cameras. Gothamist reports:

At the 1:35 mark, the headlights of an NYPD cruiser allegedly driven by Officer Ilardi appear in the upper left-hand corner of Camera 1. It speeds out of the right side of the frame at 1:42, after crossing the intersection of 40th Avenue and 10th Street. (This next block is where Oyamada was killed.) Pausing the video at several points appears to show that the cruiser’s flashing lights were not on, which is consistent with witness statements to the media and contrary to informal NYPD statements, as well as the police report.

At the 1:45 mark, Camera 1 appears to show the first indication that the NYPD cruiser’s flashing lights are on, judging by the reflection of lights on a street sign. This sudden reflection of lights would correspond to witness statements that Officer Ilardi only turned on his flashing lights after colliding with Oyamada.

The Oyamada family’s lawyer told Gothamist he believes the tape has been edited to remove the moment of the accident; the version that is in NYPD’s possession has not been made public. Further, the family charges in its recently filed lawsuit that records reveal Officer Ilardi was not even assigned to the 911 call to which NYPD claims he was responding. 

The case raises still more questions about a culture of lawlessness among police in New York City. In July, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in Staten Island, was killed when police put him in a chokehold while detaining him for selling untaxed cigarettes. And earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara released a 79-page report documenting a "culture of violence" among corrections officers who have abused teenage inmates at the city’s jail on Rikers Island. The report found that more than 4 in 10 male teens in the jail had been subjected to use of force by guards as of October 2012, and that there was a "powerful code of silence" among the jail’s staff that prevented officials from being held accountable for abuse.