NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was an emotional day in court Wednesday for the family of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, her family has demanded not only justice, but also new criminal charges in the case.
Several family members of the young girl, who was struck by a car and killed while walking with her grandmother on the Upper West Side, was in court as the teenager accused of killing her was arraigned.
Franklin Reyes, 17, looked afraid as he entered the courtroom and later answered to the charge of vehicular manslaughter.
Reyes was driving only with a learner’s permit at the time of the crash. He admitted to taking his parents’ sport-utility vehicle.
On the morning of June 4, he was driving erratically when officers tried to stop him. Police were chasing him when he swerved off the road on West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and struck little Ariel and her grandmother, police said.
After Reyes pleaded not guilty in court, Ariel’s mother read a statement conveying the pain of her loss.
“Her death certificate indicates that she was exactly 4 years, 2 months, 3 days and 5 minutes old at the time of her death,” said Sofia Russo. “This is not fair.”
Sofia Russo offered up a demand.
“I need justice for Ariel,” she said. “I want clarity on this matter. I don’t want this to happen again.”
As the grandmother recovers from the accident, the family is plagued by the question of whether a quicker EMS response to the scene could’ve saved Ariel’s life.
Fire officials have admitted that a 911 call came in at 8:15 a.m. that day, but an ambulance was not dispatched until 8:19 a.m. because the dispatcher reportedly headed to a break did not see the call.
“If it’s true that the dispatcher didn’t do her job, and if it’s true that the result was the loss of my daughter’s life, then certainly, that would be in my opinion, a criminal act,” she said.
The Russo family has already filed a $40 million lawsuit for the response to the accident and is now calling on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to launch a criminal investigation.
The family of Franklin Reyes did not speak on Wednesday, but his attorney did offer up concerns that his client was being mistreated in the Nassau County facility where he’s being held.
He didn’t offer any more details.
Reyes is due back in court on June 27 for a bond hearing.
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