WILLIAMSBURG — The NYPD officer at the wheel of a police van that hit and killed a middle school teacher Saturday was seen talking on her cell phone during the accident, police sources said.
Officer Paula Medrano, who was assigned to the 88th Precinct, was making a left turn onto Broadway from Hooper Street at 4:30 p.m. Saturday when she struck Felix Coss, 61, a Spanish teacher at a charter school who was just a few blocks from home.
After eyewitnesses told investigators that they saw Medrano talking on her cell phone at the time of the crash, officers with Internal Affairs asked her to hand it over, sources said.
Medrano, who was wearing civilian clothes at the time of the crash, refused, and investigators have subpoenaed the records, law enforcement sources said. She had not been charged as of Monday afternoon.
Driving while talking on a cellphone is illegal in New York, punishable by a maximum $100 fine and a five-point penalty on the driver’s license.
At an unrelated press conference Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly declined to comment on any disciplinary action taken by the department against Medrano and referred all questions to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Coss, who taught at the Beginning with Children charter school, was a few blocks away from his apartment on Hewes Street when he was stuck.
Both Coss and Medrano had the green light but the van did not yield to the pedestrian, police said. The officer was not responding to an emergency at the time of the crash, police said.
The impact knocked Coss over and his head hit the pavement. He was rushed toBellevue Hospital and declared dead on arrival, police said.
Sources said that cops have surveillance video of the accident, but the driver in the van cannot be seen on the tape.
Heartbroken colleagues remembered Coss as a talented teacher adored by students and respected by teachers. A viewing service for Coss will be held Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ortiz Funeral Home on 201 Havemeyer Street.
“He was the most generous person,” Gigi Beaumont, who knew Coss for eight years, said. “He would work past 3 o’clock to make sure that his lessons were ready.”
Coss was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and passionate about teaching Spanish. He took time off because of an illness last year and students would be very excited whenever he visited, Beaumont said.
Neighbors at the Hewes Street building where he lived said he was a friendly man who stopped to say “hi” to residents as he walked up the stairs but stayed out of people’s business.
“I heard his name during church yesterday and knocked on his door as soon as I came home,” said his neighbor, who declined to give her name. “But no one answered.”