Women call out city police for indifference following car, pedestrian incident at Ross and Main
The Batavia City Council tonight asked City Manager Rachael Tabelski to look into getting a police report of a vehicle-pedestrian incident last Thursday afternoon involving a Batavia woman and her grandchildren.
Council Member Rose Mary Christian made that request on behalf of the board, calling it an “unfortunate” situation.
“I would ask that the individual involved be the one that we release information to,” said Tabelski, following Mary Ellen Wilber’s account of what happened to her sister and her three grandchildren at the intersection of Main and Ross streets.
Wilber, an Attica resident who grew up in the city, was speaking at Council's Business Meeting on behalf of her sister, Batavian Michelle Gaylord.
Gaylord was walking on the north side of Main Street with her 15- and 11-year-old grandsons and 11-month-old granddaughter, who was in a stroller. They were en route to Gaylord’s home on Fisher Park around 3:30 p.m. after spending time at the mammoth sale at Resurrection Parish.
According to Wilber, a woman driving an SUV on Ross Street, heading south, approached the intersection and made a right turn onto Main Street while Gaylord and the children were in the intersection. The vehicle struck the buggy, knocking the 71-year-old Gaylord to the ground.
“The reason I am here, correct me if I’m wrong … is when we took our road test and took our driver’s ed – please understand I am not trying to be facetious – as I recall that we all learned … we were told that drivers must have complete control of their vehicles at all times,” Wilber said. “It was the number one rule I was taught. And I took my course and I took driver’s ed, and ever since I’ve been driving for almost 50 years.
“We also were always told that pedestrians had the right of way, especially when they’re in the crosswalk. And we were always supposed to be cautious. My greatest fear was ever hitting a child. It scares the heck out of me, even now.”
Wilber went on to say that the Gaylord family waited for the light to turn red and began crossing Ross Street (which is marked at the intersection by a no right on red sign from Ross onto Main).
Showing a diagram that she had made as she spoke, Wilber said “a woman came to the stoplight, stopped for a second and proceeded to go through the light – striking my sister as she moved the – thank God it was an Eddie Bauer* -- stroller away because it had shock absorbers. She fell onto the road, the kids jumped back and the lady just, oh my goodness – she hit my sister.”
The driver, according to Wilber, asked Gaylord if she was OK and “proceeded to go on her merry way.”
She said people in two cars behind the driver in question saw the incident and called the police.
“My sister was so shaken, she was so worried about the kids; she waited on the side until her son, Joshua Gaylord, came to pick them up,” Wilber said. “Nevertheless, to say, the police in our City of Batavia chose not to ticket the woman who drove; chose not to believe my sister; chose not to believe the two witnesses; and chose not even to talk to the 11-year-old boy, who when he told his teacher at Robert Morris (actually the Middle School) today, confirmed – ‘Oh no, drivers are always supposed to be in control and you never, ever, ever hit a pedestrian and pedestrians always have the right of way.’ ”
Wilber said the boy has had nightmares over the incident.
She also said that the two witnesses called the police department and then Gaylord called and spoke to Officer (Sgt. Mitchell) Cowen “who said to her, there is no report, there were no damages, and you didn’t go to the hospital.”
“My sister, who has been a nurse and served this community for 35 years at the VA Hospital – helping veterans – and you all know me, I served the city on the City Charter Review Commission and as a Youth Board member for six years,” Wilber said.
She said that Sgt. Cowen told Gaylord, that “we know your sister (Wilber). She called to speak to Chief (Shawn) Heubusch; he’s not going to talk to her anyway.”
“You see, there’s a resentment from what happened to my brother (the late David Zanghi, who was forced out of his Liberty Street apartment in November 2019 as a result of a police standoff with the upstairs tenant),” Wilber said, adding that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch looked down upon Zanghi, who had obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wilber said her niece, who is an attorney in Livingston County and the baby’s mother, has tried to get an incident report but was told that she would have to file a Freedom of Information Law form to get it.
“Her daughter was involved in this accident – couldn’t get a report. My sister can’t get any information. Ridiculous. You know the law; drivers have to be in control of their cars. Pedestrians have the right of way. This woman was not given a ticket,” Wilber said.
“My family can’t do anything about finding any information. What is wrong with the police department in the City of Batavia? And why do kids not respect the police? Here is clear evidence. I don’t know. You tell me what is going on in the City of Batavia?”
Contacted by telephone later tonight, Gaylord corroborated Wilber’s account.
“The lady said ‘I didn’t even see you.’ Here I am, lying flat on the ground,” Gaylord said.
Gaylord said she asked the grandsons to call their dad to pick them up because she couldn’t walk as she was banged up.
“Even the lady who witnessed it was shook up, but before I could say anything, the driver said that I was all right and took off,” Gaylord said. “She never looked our way, and out of the clear blue sky, she pulled out and started to turn right. She hit the front of the stroller. I pulled back and got it out of the way a little – in the crosswalk – and when I did, I fell and hit my head on the curb. The baby’s so tiny, just 18 pounds. I screamed because I was so scared for these kids.”
Gaylord said she contacted police, who had already learned about the incident from witnesses. She said she is disappointed that the driver wasn’t ticketed for making an illegal right turn on a red light or for striking pedestrians in a crosswalk.
“I don’t want to sue or anything, but I can’t believe she didn’t get a ticket,” Gaylord said. “When I asked for an accident report, the police said it is an accident only if there is $1,000 damage. What, people don’t count anymore?”
Chief Heubusch said he had no comment.
After the meeting, Christian called it “unfortunate what Mary Ellen said, that the police didn’t respond to her.”
“I did ask Rachael if she would have the police respond to her (Wilber) because she certainly does deserve that and so does her sister, and thank God nobody was killed.”
*Eddie Bauer is a retail sporting goods maker in business since 1920.