Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance this week dropped the manslaughter charge against the ex-con son of a well-connected NYPD family who was caught on video driving onto a sidewalk while texting before striking and killing an outspoken civil rights activist, then fleeing the scene on foot and evading police for more than two months, all while he was on parole after serving a three-year prison stint on drug charges.
The victim was Charity Hicks, the policy director for the East Michigan Environmental Action Council and a well-known activist in the struggle for environmental justice in Detroit, especially the struggle for access to clean water. She was also a black nationalist and pan-Africanist who believed in self-determination for African Americans and the common origin and linked destiny of African peoples and those of African descent scattered throughout the world by white supremacy.
Hicks, who was visiting New York City to speak on a panel at the Left Forum, remained in a coma for more than a month before she died.
In fact, the driver was Thomas Shanley, whose father, also named Thomas Shanley, was a New York City police officer “who died of a heart attack in the line of duty in 1986.”
After the death of his father, Shanley’s mother, Lorraine Shanley, became the treasurer of “Survivors of the Shield,” a 501(c) (3) non-profit for widows and orphans of NYPD officers. She is also on the board of trustees for the New York City Police Museum, along with ex-officio member, Bill Bratton, the current commissioner of the NYPD.
In the photos below, she can be seen with Pat Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Ray Kelly, the former commissioner of the NYPD, and Dan Donovan, the former Staten Island District Attorney who failed to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner after placing him in a chokehold.
The crash occurred on May 31, 2014 on 34th St and 10th Avenue in Manhattan when the driver of a red Dodge Durango SUV drove onto the sidewalk and struck a pole that hit Hicks.
When the driver fled, he left his vehicle and phone at the scene, but was not apprehended by police until August 1, 2014.
It seems odd that it took the NYPD more than two months to track down someone who is so tightly connected with its own department, especially given that he was on parole after serving three years in prison for drug charges.
Even more odd is the fact that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has decided to drop the manslaughter charge against Shanley unilaterally, before trial.
According to the criminal complaint against Shanley, the district attorney has video that shows Shanley veering across two lanes of traffic before mounting the sidewalk and striking Hicks.
The complaint also states the DA has cell phone records showing Shanley was texting at the time of the crash. This seems like more than enough evidence to prove a manslaughter charge, which carries up to 15 years in prison.
The highest remaining charges against Shanley are felony leaving the scene, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years; criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of four years; and leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, which is a misdemeanor.
Shanley, who was released from prison in 2009, was arrested again in 2011 after he was found with methamphetamine, hypodermic needles and a digital scale under the front passenger seat of his car, which was a violation of his parole.
His 2014 arrest should also have been a violation of his parole, but that has not been addressed by Vance.
He remains incarcerated after pleading not guilty in January 2015.
Reached by e-mail, activists in Detroit who were friends with Hicks said they are devastated that Vance dropped the manslaughter charge against Shanley and continue to call for justice in her death.
“It’s typical that the family of a police officer is not held accountable when they kill someone, even someone as special as Charity,” said one activist, who asked to remain anonymous.
Below is a photo and three videos showing Hicks doing what she did best: speaking her mind; a voice that is now sorely missed, especially considering the current situation in Flint.