2016-11-02 / Front Page

No Bail For Unlicensed Driver In Baby Van Horror

By Liz Goff
The parents of an 8-month-old boy who was killed when his stroller was struck by a van in Jackson Heights on October 28, expressed outrage when the driver was released without bail at his arraignment at Queens Criminal Court.

Family members said unlicensed driver Armando Rodriguez should have been locked up after he struck little Navraj Raju on Friday morning.

The baby was sitting in his stroller as he and his mother, Daljit Kaur, were headed along Astoria Boulevard near 93rd Street at about 10:20 a.m. on October 28.

Rodriguez, 44, who had been collecting scrap metal outside a nearby apartment building, reversed the van out of the driveway and crushed the baby beneath a rear tire, police said.

An eyewitness told investigators the mother was screaming, “Stop! Stop!” and hitting the van, but Rodriguez didn’t hear her and kept backing up, a police source said.  

Five onlookers rushed to the van and pulled the baby from beneath the rear of the vehicle, then tried in vain to save the infant’s life. The street was “filled with sobs,” as the would-be rescuers tried to help the baby – and his mom was crying because the baby was dead, the source said.

Rodriguez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, was charged with driving without a license. He is facing a fine or several days in jail when he returns to court on December 5.

Family members said the parents expressed anger and disbelief when Rodriguez was released without bail. “It’s not fair for them to lose their baby and he walks away unpunished for that,” the baby’s great aunt said. “It’s not fair.”

Under current law, Rodriguez could only be charged with driving without a license, a violation similar to receiving a parking ticket, a law enforcement source said.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris recently drafted a bill calling for stiffer penalties for unlicensed drivers who kill or severely injure another person. The measure would increase the charge from a violation to a felony and would require jail time where there is a conviction. The bill passed the full senate earlier this year.

Family members said the parents came to the U.S. from India six years ago and settled in East Elmhurst.

Police said Rodriguez stopped the van as soon as he realized what had happened, and ran to help the baby. The father of five remained at the scene, sobbing as the boy was placed in an ambulance. The baby was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead ob arrival.

Eyewitnesses told police the mother had just left a local deli where she purchased milk and eggs. “The mom had the baby wrapped in a lot of blankets because it was cold out,” a police source said. “She leaned over the stroller to tuck the blankets under the baby, and the van suddenly backed up over the stroller/ It was just horrible,” the source said.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez could face upgraded charges, pending the results of an ongoing investigation by police at the NYPD Accident Investigation Squad.

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