Chief’s car crash: Still a brick wall
November 6, 2000
Here are more details about the car accident involving Chief Judy McGinn, who plowed through the brick facade of a Brooklyn body shop in July after striking a sanitation truck and five parked cars.
Miraculously, no one was hurt other than McGinn, who suffered head and neck injuries. Still, the incident, which occurred at 9:49 p.m. on July 27 in Bay Ridge, was kept so hush-hush that the department's press office did not learn of it until three days later.
The department has not released a single document related to the accident, which they say occurred while McGinn was on duty.
According to two top police officials, employees in the neighborhood and an eyewitness, McGinn, then an inspector in Brooklyn narcotics, was driving south on Fourth Avenue in an unmarked police car when she struck the sanitation truck at 89th Street. She then struck the five parked cars and plowed through the brick wall, landing inside the body shop on the opposite side of the street at 9013 Fourth Ave.
McGinn was found inside the car bleeding from the head and barely conscious. The car's air bag had inflated, though whether this occurred when she struck the sanitation truck or after she hit the body shop is unclear.
The two top police officials, both of whom asked for anonymity, said McGinn had "blacked out," did not know where she was or what had caused the accident. Both the eyewitness and those who have viewed the damage to the body shop estimate McGinn was traveling 40 or 50 mph.
An employee of the body shop said that after the accident, the wheels of the car were spinning in place because the floor was covered with oil from a drum she had shattered. The garage filled with smoke and police officers initially feared the possibility of a fire. Three months after the accident, skid marks remain on the sidewalk between a gas station-whose pumps she narrowly missed-and the body shop where she landed.
The only published account of the incident at the time appeared in the Home Reporter and Sunset News, a weekly Brooklyn newspaper. The un-bylined article mistakenly described McGinn as a captain and said the incident began when she struck a sanitation truck stopped at a traffic light in the northbound lane. McGinn, the article said, then struck two double-parked cars, a car waiting for a light at the corner of 90th Street and a vehicle traveling north before slamming into the body shop.
Despite anonymous allegations that surfaced 10 days after the accident, the two police officials say there is no evidence that McGinn had been drinking. Her blood alcohol level was not tested at Lutheran Medical Center, where she was taken in a private ambulance.
The police officials discount the initial report of a second-year medical student who said he had smelled alcohol on her breath. Police said he later told them he did not personally smell the alcohol but was told of it by someone else.
Because the allegations involved a possible crime-driving while intoxicated-Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes subpoenaed McGinn's hospital records. The Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau is also investigating.
In September, McGinn was promoted to chief of Brooklyn detectives. She has declined to discuss the details of the accident with Newsday and was said to be in Europe on vacation this week.
Flanked by the department's three top officials-Commissioner Bernie Kerik, First Deputy Joe Dunne and Chief of Department Joe Esposito-Goodman announced that he had secured $2 million in state money for department defibrillators for heart attack victims. He acknowledged, however, that the funds had been allocated months ago.
Police spokesman Tom Antenen would not say whether Goodman's fellow Republican, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, had ordered Kerik, Dunne and Esposito to attend the news conference. Judging from the way department officials were scurrying around trying to corral reporters to attend, that seemed likely.
Goodman, meanwhile, who appeared to have difficulty walking into One Police Plaza, did not return Your Humble Servant's call to his press secretary, Claire Wainwright, inquiring about his health.
Bratton will consult with Jerry Hauer, former commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management, who signed on with Kroll last month. Hauer said he and Bratton share "a mutual high regard for each other."
Hauer and Bratton also share a mutual disregard for Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, who tried, unsuccessfully, to interest Kroll in hiring him before he left the Police Department.
© 2000 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.