SUV Fleeing Police Hits, Kills 4-Year-Old Girl, Hurts Grandma on Upper West Side

The child and grandmother were struck near 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue

A 4-year-old girl died after she and her grandmother were struck and pinned against a wall by an SUV that jumped a curb on the Upper West Side Tuesday morning as the teen driver tried to flee police, a law enforcement official said.

Police pulled over the 17-year-old driver of the SUV near 87th Street and Amsterdam Avenue around 8:15 a.m. for allegedly driving recklessly, but the teen -- who sources said had only a learner's permit -- sped off as the officers approached the vehicle, the official told NBC 4 New York.

Police got back into their car and chased the teen, who made a turn on 97th Street and jumped the curb, pinning the 4-year-old girl and her 58-year-old grandmother, according to the official. 

The teen, identified as Franklin Reyes of Chelsea, tried to flee cops a second time but was taken into custody at the scene. He has been charged with manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. 

Martin Schmukler, Reyes' attorney, said Reyes' hitting the girl and her grandmother was "an accident."

"He shouldn't have been driving," he said. "It's as simple as that." 

According to law enforcement sources, Reyes told detectives he took his mother's car without permission and was on his way to St. Agnes Boys High School. He told investigators he panicked when police pulled him over, and that's why he sped off.

The little girl, identified as Ariel Russo of the Bronx, and her grandmother were taken to the hospital, where the child died, according to sources. The grandmother's condition was not known.

Father Larry Ford of the Holy Name of Jesus, the school where Ariel was a pre-kindergarten student, led a prayer vigil for the little girl Tuesday evening. 

"The teachers of the lower grades, the kindergarten and pre-K, did a great job dealing with their own grief, and then dealing with the classmates and her friends," he said. 

"This is so hard," said parent Patricia Frisbie. "The horrific nature of this accident just causes every parent to step back and think about if it was your child."

Borough President Scott Stringer promised "some tough questions" would be asked in the investigation.

"We want to know whether protocols were observed. The police are going through their own investigation," he said.

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