A motorcycle clipped a car on a side road near Yankee Stadium yesterday, sending the driver flying, and police arrested the man who first rushed to his aid.
The driver of the motorcycle, identified as Joseph Fomo, an ex-cop, by a neighbor, was carried off of Walton Rd. in the South Bronx in an ambulance, while the bystander who first arrived at the man’s side and stayed with him as police and medical workers showed up, left in handcuffs.
At about 4:20PM on Monday, a screech, skid and popping noise echoed down Walton Rd. and through neighboring Joyce Kilmer Park, where families and children gathered to take advantage of the sunny weather and the day off from school.
Moments later, a man with close cropped hair and a gym bag slung across his shoulder was sprinting north on Walton Avenue towards the crash, yelling “call an ambulance!” in Spanish.
As a large crowd gathered, the sprinting man knelt by the side of the driver, who was prostrate and face down in the road with his red and white motorcycle ditched beside him in the road. The Good Samaritan took a stethoscope from his bag to check the driver’s heartbeat. The driver was conscious, but his movements were labored and slow.
Witnesses said a black SUV idling on the side of Walton Rd. pulled out into traffic right as the driver was attempting to pass, clipping the motorcycle and causing the driver to lose control and careen into the back of a van parked further ahead.
A short debate broke out amongst the onlookers over whether to remove the driver’s helmet, with one man taking the helmet in his hands and beginning to pull it off. But an NYPD officer arrived and began urging the spectators to step back. Soon, a fire truck and ambulance arrived, and EMTs cut off the motorcyclist’s jacket, flipped him over, and carefully removed his helmet.
The sprinting helper milled around the police officers and medical workers, even as most of the onlookers had moved out of the middle of the street.
When a police officer asked him, now shirtless, to move to the sidewalk, he did so, but wandered back into the street. When the cop confronted him again, the man became upset, and spoke loudly in Spanish. Seconds later, another officer stepped in, commanding him to return to the sidewalk. When the Good Samaritan continued talking loudly and did not immediately move, another officer, referred to as Sargent Simmons, approached, said “you know what?,” grabbed the man’s hands, and handcuffed him.
The crowd began to protest and ask officers why they were arresting someone who had immediately jumped to help the victim.
Several minutes later, police officers looked quizzically at an abandoned gym bag full of clothes, a roll of gauze tape, and other possessions, until onlookers reminded them it belonged to the man they had just arrested – who dropped it in his rush to attend to the injured motorcyclist.
Jessica Fernandez, who lingered on the sidewalk to see the fate of the arrested man, said that actions like this undermined the NYPD’s appeal to communities of color to trust the cops. “How is it that you’re trying to build community relations,” when police arrest people trying to help, Fernandez asked. She thought the fact that the man was speaking in Spanish contributed to the police’s lack of patience with him.
Another onlooker, Deja Fuentes, said “it was not cool to make an example of him,” but she understood the need for caution with so much emergency personnel working in a small area, and a motorcycle that could still be flammable.
Officers at the scene declined to comment on the man’s arrest or on the condition of the driver.