SFPD Arrests Aunt for Leaving Two-Year-Old Mi’yana Gregory in Crosswalk

SF police have arrested 25-year-old Lorysha Gage for leaving two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory in the downtown crosswalk where she was run over and killed last Friday night. Even as police seek the driver who struck Gregory and fled the scene, Gage is set to be arraigned tomorrow on charges of “felony child endangerment, with an enhancement allegation for causing death.”

Media reports initially quoted family members saying Gage had the walk signal when she crossed Mission in the crosswalk between Fourth and Fifth Streets, with Gregory and her twin brother in tow. The SFPD now says Gage was crossing against the signal, had left Gregory in the street unattended to retrieve her brother from the sidewalk, and that the driver had a green light.

“The investigation showed some evidence that there was some child neglect that resulted in the death of the two-year-old toddler,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told KTVU.

On the day of the arrest, SFPD Sergeant John Bragagnolo targeted citations towards “jaywalking” pedestrians at the crosswalk where Gregory died, telling KTVU he pointed to Gregory’s memorial when ticketing them.

“Pedestrians feel their speed and their hurry is more important than their safety,” Bragagnolo said.

Putting aside generalizations about the feelings of people who walk, this is an unusual case among pedestrian crashes: The SFPD’s data show that the top five causes are all driver violations, which the SFPD has pledged to focus enforcement on. In May, however, we reported that although SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” citations were reportedly increasing, its tickets issued to people walking and biking were increasing far faster. After a peak of 723 citations issued to pedestrians in March [PDF], the monthly number dropped at 444 in June [PDF], the latest month for which citation data has been reported.

Police say it’s unclear whether the driver who caused Gregory’s death was even aware he or she had run over an infant.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Scheider said “it’s a really challenging case, in that the arrest is broader than just an issue of pedestrian safety at this point.”

SFPD Sgt. Bragagnolo tickets a pedestrian at the crosswalk where Gregory was killed. Image: KTVU

“I think it’s really important, in terms of the police department and the media, that we still focus on the fact that this helpless two-year-old girl was killed by a hit-and-run driver and dragged,” she said. “The collision happened on Mission Street, a known high-injury corridor. I think it’s important that we focus on these systematic problems that need systematic solutions.”

“Figuring out how to slow traffic on this street is going to be the most critical next step,” Schneider added.

The incident, and the SFPD’s subsequent arrest of Gage, seem to raise broader questions than most pedestrian crashes. Should streets be designed in such a way that a mistake such as Gage’s has fatal consequences? Does she deserve to be charged as a felon for it, while she wasn’t the one piloting a motor vehicle?

Some commenters on Streetsblog and social media have also questioned whether the fact that Gage is African-American affected SFPD’s treatment of the case, while others have fired back by saying that allegations of police racism are premature.

Race appeared to play a major role in a 2011 case in Georgia, where Raquel Nelson, also African-American, was convicted of “vehicular homicide, jaywalking, and reckless conduct” after her four-year-old son was killed by a drunk, repeat hit-and-run driver as they crossed a street with no crosswalks in sight. She was convicted by an all-white, non-transit-dependent jury.

If anything’s clear in Gregory’s crash, however, it’s that an SFPD ticket blitz aimed at people who do cross the street safely will not prevent crashes like hers.

  • Luce Morales

    > Does she deserve to be charged as a felon for it, while she wasn’t the one piloting a motor vehicle?
    You don’t understand the charge. The aunt is being charged for placing the child in a perilous situation that was foreseeable. And race has nothing to do with it. Whatever your race, you’re not supposed to leave two year-olds in a crosswalk, in the middle of oncoming traffic. Really, is there no example of irresponsible behavior by adults that we won’t bend over backwards to condone?

  • Mario Tanev

    Two important questions.

    1. What is an effective deterrent? If you’re a pedestrian violating the rules, you risk your life or that of your relatives (in this case, your niece). That’s certainly a much more effective deterrent than a fine, or an arrest. An arrest here serves no deterrent purpose. On the other hand, drivers may not value someone else’s life as highly as their freedom.

    2. Who does your action harm? If you’re a pedestrian, you harm yourself. If you’re a driver you harm someone else.

    What has happened here is a travesty on both counts. It’s like capital punishment for suicidal tendencies. It targets the victim. Even if the victim is irresponsible, it makes no sense. The fact that the victim has been arrested and the perpetrator is still at large is a double travesty.

  • I’m having a hard time with the SFPD version of the story. No one in their right mind crosses against the light on Mission Street with two-year-old twins. No one. No matter how much of a hurry they might be in. So perhaps the aunt wasn’t in her right mind, or perhaps she didn’t cross against a red. I don’t know. But I seriously doubt it’s an issue of a pedestrian feeling overly entitled.

  • Luce Morales

    The only victim is the two-year old. If you leave a child in the middle of a crosswalk with oncoming traffic, your action potentially harms the child, as it did in this case. What’s so difficult to understand? I hope the DA throws the book at auntie.

  • Will Lowry

    What the aunt did was probably very normal, but with tragic consequences. She may have been simply trying to cross Mission St. with twin 2 year olds. Charging her with a felony will help decrease future serious injuries no more than a mini ticket blitz for pedestrians will — meaning not at all. As per Vision Zero, the focus should be on making the streets safer with the specific measurement of lessening serious injuries. Look into Sweden’s Vision Zero. Slowing traffic at pedestrian crossings is germane to the whole approach.

  • NoeValleyJim

    If she had only run over the toddler with an automobile, she would have gotten off scott free, with no charges filed.

  • Mario Tanev

    And who benefits from the charge? The other relatives? The greater society? Nobody does.

    But society would benefit if the driver is arrested. Thinking like yours is what’s wrong with our society. It’s disproportionate justice with rules for the sake of them, rather than for actual safety.

  • Fran Taylor

    Quite a difference in the pronto police work ferreting out video to exonerate a driver, in contrast to their lack of interest in video evidence against the truck driver who killed Amelie Le Moullac at 6th and Folsom.

  • Luce Morales

    > The greater society?

    Ah, yes. So the next irresponsible/stupid/lazy adult may think better of it and wait for the light rather than lead children into traffic. Thinking like yours – in which a person responsible for the death of a loved one has/will ‘suffer enough’ – is what’s wrong with society, not so-called “disproportionate justice.” What’s disproportionate about it? The aunt is equally responsible for the death as the driver – if not more. But for her actions, the child would be alive.

  • Mario Tanev

    Ok, again, but dumbed down.

    The justice system serves several purposes: deterrence (discouraging people from committing a crime), prevention of recidivism (avoiding a repeat offense), re-education (preparing for a better return to society), societal calm (where society doesn’t resort to vigilanteism) and yes… retribution (or piece of mind for the victim).

    This serves none of those purposes. It’s like capital punishment for people who want to commit suicide. Pointless and cruel.

  • Luce Morales

    You almost got there with “prevention of recidivism (avoiding a repeat offense) and re-education” but you left out PUNISHMENT for the wrongdoer. This is also one of the principal purposes of the justice system.
    PS: No need to dumb anything down as you patronizingly put it. I can read and comprehend, and I believe I am sharing opinions with you in an articulate and respectful manner, though we disagree. But thanks.

  • Mario Tanev

    There is no such thing as punishment for its own sake. It is used to provide peace of mind to the victims or relatives, to teach the perpetrator a lesson and so on. In this case it serves no purpose. Nobody benefits.

  • Luce Morales

    > There is no such thing as punishment for its own sake.

    I disagree. I believe punishment teaches the perpetrator a lesson, as you say yourself, and that’s one of the principal purposes of the criminal justice system. That’s it. I don’t think we’re going to get any closer than that. Good night.

  • Mario Tanev

    If you think prison time is a better lesson than the death of a niece, you’re delusional. Think again.

  • Luce Morales

    We don’t give people exemptions from the rule of law because their guilt is ‘punishment enough.’ Perhaps you’re watching too many soap operas.

  • Mario Tanev

    Exemptions are an example of judgment. If you’ve followed the course of road-related deaths in SF you will know that San Francisco prosecutors use their prosecutorial judgment a lot. And it tends to favor drivers who kill people because they think a jury won’t convict (and because they empathize with drivers). What is a jury? It’s a representation of society since US society is automobile-bound, they also tend to empathize with drivers. Certainly, from the windshield perspective it may seem that a death of a relative is not punishment enough (it’s not just guilt, it’s a great loss to that person!). But if the jury consisted of people who lost a relative, that jury would not find the person guilty.

    In essence, we empathize more with a mundane act (driving a car) than with the pain and loss inflicted by a loss of a relative. That is, who are you to make a mistake on the road as a vulnerable user, if that disturbs my right to the road in my tin can, where my mistakes carry no guilt?

  • Luce Morales

    I believe the person who led a two-year old into oncoming traffic and left her there should be punished. I hope the DA agrees.

  • murphstahoe

    Sure we do. Hundreds of parents have left their child to die in a car seat on a hot day after forgetting that the child was in the car. And the majority are not charged. A recurring theme in all the cases I researched exactly matched Mario’s themes.

    I believe this is because the DA/Police empathize with drivers and not pedestrians. And there was a clear racial and class divide between those who were charged and those who were not.

  • murphstahoe

    Cut the truck driver a break. He will have to live his whole life with that guilt!

  • Luce Morales

    Without knowing those specific cases, I wouldn’t know what circumstances mitigated in favor of the negligent parent(s). In this case, I believe the person who led a child to her death in a crosswalk, against the light, in oncoming traffic, should be prosecuted and punished.

  • gneiss

    That’s exactly right. Despite all the new pedestrian oriented development along Mission Street, the streetscape essentially remains the same as it was in the 1930’s after the streetcar tracks were ripped up in the neighborhood. The irony of the crossing at mid-block on this street is that the light was not installed for safety, but to facilitate faster movement of cars. If the crosswalk wasn’t signalized, car drivers would be responsible for yielding to pedestrians which would have lead to slower speeds on the street. A properly designed street with slower moving cars next to pedestrians would have avoided this tragedy.

  • murphstahoe

    OK, let’s try one. Man is headed to work, has to drop off the child at daycare. Gets a cellphone call from a client, takes the call – using his hands free – and forgets to drop the child off at daycare. Arrives at work, goes into the office, returns to his car 9 hours later and his son is dead. No charges. Discuss. Oh yes, three times during the day his car alarm went off and he remotely deactivated it. True story.

    The primary reaction to these cases is that there needs to be technology added to cars to prevent this sort of thing from happening. But there is ZERO drive to make roadway changes to prevent this sort of pedestrian death from happening. The pedestrian should behave better we say, and punish their mistakes – but we empathize with the driver and instead of admonishing them we sympathize and try to figure out how to mitigate their mistakes, not punish them.

  • RoyTT

    The voir dire process is designed to remove any intrinsic bias of prospective jurors. A potential juror who lost a child in a car accident would probably be challenged and removed from the pool. A juror with jaywalking convictions might also be excluded. And, in this case, a person who has themselves endangered a child.

    But realistically we cannot exclude from the pool people who belong to very broad and populous classes, like parents, pedestrians or drivers. And isn’t the point of the jury system to have a verdict based on the judgement of your peers?

    Laws are written by those whom a majority elect, and they are enforced by that same majority as represented by a typical jury. Juries can sometimes be rigged if one side has enough resources, as we saw with OJ. But most of the time it works well.

    The one thing that troubles me here is the missing driver. That could imply he was aware of what happened and ran away rather than face the consequences. Or he genuinely may not have realized what had happened. We don’t know yet.

    So I am reserving judgement until he is found and the full facts are discovered. But any which way, the guardian of this child is fairly seriously responsible as well.

  • coolbabybookworm
  • SF Guest

    What roadway changes should be made in a case where a 2-year old is negligently left in a crosswalk with a red light for the pedestrian?

  • murphstahoe

    Replace the stop light with a stop sign?

    Crazier than adding $100 in hardware to every vehicle sold in the US to prevent negligently leaving a 2 year old in a vehicle?

  • Andy Chow

    It is also important to remind that this happened late at night so lack of visibility is a factor.

  • Greg

    Peds and bikers ignoring traffic rules don’t just put themselves at risk, they put others at risk as well – cars have to react to avoid them, respond to them, etc. which reaction could cause an accident and someone else to be hurt. I drive in SF differently now to deal with the crazy bikers on the road – some of these differences are not good overall (e.g., focusing too much on bikers sneaking up on your right despite car being nearly on the curb with blinker on, etc. at the expense of focusing on people running into the crosswalk in front of me as the countdown light hits 2, 1…). Your actions are not in a vacuum.

  • Greg

    Naive/sheltered view.

  • murphstahoe

    cars have to react to avoid them

    Cars are an inanimate object. Unless you are talking about self driving cars, which we are assured will be able to react to them.

  • EastBayer

    Perhaps you have data that show that significant numbers of motorists are injured in collisions caused by avoiding pedestrians?

  • baklazhan

    Give them a little credit– they were presumably ferreting out video because it was a hit-and-run case. That, at least, is one situation in which charges sometimes do result (although it looks unlikely in this case).

  • SF Guest

    Your solution to have a yield sign would not have guaranteed stopping this tragedy. As a pedestrian in SF what I notice on a daily basis — motorists lose their patience waiting for jaywalkers crossing on a stale countdown signal following legal pedestrians crossing a street. I can see the frustration of drivers waiting to make a right turn whereby only one or two cars are able to make the right turn on a green light as a result of jaywalkers. What the City needs is more PCOs acting as traffic cops. The PCO stationed at Beale/Mkt for example habitually has to blow the whistle to halt jaywalkers.

    Your suggestion implies that all streets should be designed to reduce the speed of moving cars which is not a practical idea. It would be equivalent to installing speed bumps on every street.

    The reason why traffic signals are installed is to facilitate and coordinate moving vehicles and pedestrians. If a motor vehicle or pedestrian disobeys a traffic law and an accident occurs that’s no reason to redesign the street.

  • Sanfordia113

    Have you ever spent time in Mid-Market/SOMA? This is unfortunately the norm.

  • Luce Morales

    Now that we know auntie was on her cell phone when she abandoned a toddler in the middle of oncoming traffic, I wonder what all her defenders here think.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Just glanced at the comments and didn’t see anyone defending the aunt so much as seeing a misdirection of blame from the driver to the Aunt. Last time I checked using your cell phone as a pedestrian is legal. It’s definitely looking like the aunt was negligent and facing charges, but that doesn’t exonerate the driver nor does it make our streets any safer.

  • Luce Morales

    > using your cell phone as a pedestrian is legal.
    But leading a child into a perilous situation that’s foreseeable is. That the aunt was texting or talking on the phone only underscores the extreme nature of her negligence. As to misdirection of blame, I haven’t heard one person anywhere say the driver isn’t also responsible.