Driving home from a friend’s birthday party in the quiet of an early morning last month, Sylvia Edwards barely had time to notice the flicker of flashing lights reflecting off a distant window before a Boston police van slammed into her car and she blacked out.
When Edwards, 37, regained consciousness moments later, her car was in a yard across the street. Shattered glass was everywhere, and the passenger side was crumpled, pinning the leg of her sister, Kennette Pannell, inside the car.
The Boston police van that hit Edwards’s car had been flying down Dale Street, a one-way road in Roxbury, in the wrong direction, with no sirens on. Had the officers been driving in the right direction, the sisters’ attorney said, they would have seen the stop sign. Instead, they crashed directly into Edwards’s car as it was passing on Walnut Avenue through the intersection.
None of these details, however, were included in the Boston Police Department’s statement about the incident, or in the initial police report, which mentioned only that the officers were responding to ”a priority request.”
Other police officers and EMTs soon arrived to administer first aid to Edwards and Pannell, 32, after they made their way out of the mangled car. Edwards suffered a concussion, while Pannell’s liver was sliced, requiring a hospital stay for both women, who are now recovering at home. But neither woman has heard from the department since Feb. 20, the day after the crash.
“That police report was just disheartening,” Edwards said. “I respect police, but this time I feel let down. You wouldn’t think that this would happen, and if I was the one who hit them, it would’ve been a whole different situation.”
Department spokesman Sergeant Detective John T. Boyle said the department is investigating the collision, as it does with all officer-involved car crashes. A copy of the unredacted police report obtained by the Globe names the officers as Nelson Kadey, 27, and Edwin Centeio, 31, though it did not specify who was driving. The report also lists the two officers as victims in the crash, while Edwards and Pannell are named as suspects. Of the two officers, Boyle told the Globe one was placed on injured leave, while the other returned to full duty, though he did not identify them by name.
Boyle said the department would not comment on the investigation.
But Gabrielle Mainiero, one of the attorneys representing Edwards and Pannell, alleges that the department is “attempting to evade culpability for the crash,” pointing to several discrepancies between the police report and Edwards and Pannell’s version of events. Mainiero said she is planning to seek an internal affairs investigation into the crash and is also weighing a civil lawsuit if the department does not voluntarily come forward and accept responsibility for the accident.
“The fact that weeks have gone by without any sort of correction or outreach to our clients is just troubling,” Mainiero said.
Boston police filed an addendum to the original report earlier this month correcting a mistake about the location of the police van: Officers originally wrote that the vehicle was traveling down Walnut Avenue, a two-way street with no stop signs at the intersection, instead of Dale. But although the police report states the van had lights and sirens on, Edwards and Pannell maintain that the night was silent up until the moment of the crash.
“If you hear sirens, you’re gonna look for it, [especially] if you know they’re coming into an intersection,” Edwards said. “There was no sirens. I didn’t even have music on.”
She added: “There was just the reflection of the lights and then — boom. I had a bad taste in my mouth as I opened my eyes ... it just happened so fast.”
The day after the crash, Edwards said an officer appeared at her front door with documents for her to sign that would allow the department to perform an inspection of her car. Because of her concussion, Edwards had to call her son over to read the papers for her, and the officer did not leave her a copy of the documents or any way to reach him.
Mainiero said she will continue reaching out to the department seeking documents and video footage related to the crash. In the meantime, her clients continue to wait without answers.
“I’ve been having panic attacks ... this is my first major accident,” said Edwards, who said she has lost multiple family members to fatal car accidents, including most recently a relative in November.
“I haven’t gotten into a car until I had to go to the hospital,” she said. “It just retraumatizes me.”