Friends and family of a local elementary school teacher, Matthew Jensen, gathered at Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday morning to witness the sentencing of the man who fatally hit Jensen with his car in 2021.
Tariq Witherspoon, an FDNY EMT who hit Jensen while driving down McGuinness Boulevard in a Rolls-Royce and fled the scene, was sentenced to six months imprisonment on a charge of criminally-negligent homicide.
As Witherspoon pled guilty earlier this year, he avoided going to trial. When police arrested Witherspoon in February 2022, they found a lengthy history of reckless driving — he previously struck a cyclist in 2017, causing the cyclist “severe injuries.”
“Three members of Jensen’s family spoke before the sentencing, all evoking the love that the siblings and fellow teachers had for the larger-than-life instructor and former Peace Corps member,” Streetsblog NYC reports. “All three family members spat out pent-up bitterness at Witherspoon.”
After the sentencing was handed down, some close friends and family felt that six months was hardly adequate punishment.
“Nothing can replace Matt or fill the gaping hole this has left in the lives of so many people, but we would have hoped for a sentence that reflects the severity of the crime,” close friend and neighbor, Lisa Summa, told Greenpointers. “He was driving recklessly, hit Matt and left him to die. It’s unforgivable. Six months is a slap on the wrist…for someone’s life.”
“It’s not enough time. Actions have consequences and his actions were egregious and callous,” said Lisa DeRiu, lifelong friend. Deighna DeRiu, another friend, added: “That he was someone who had the skills and knowledge to help Matty makes it so much more painful.”
Jensen’s tragic death galvanized the North Brooklyn community to take action and bring attention to the dangers present on the busy McGuinness Boulevard.
EMTs are trained to save lives, not take them. This man had a record of reckless driving and injuring others. His egregious conduct — fleeing the scene after striking Matthew Jensen (while speeding at 50mph in a 25mph zone) has been rewarded with an appallingly lenient sentence — one that’s in no way commensurate with his *unconscionable* actions. Justice has not been served, the D.A. and judge have failed in their roles to protect and serve the public.
Because of this criminal who’ll walk (and drive) free 6 months later, hundreds of thousands of innocent law obliging drivers will suffer through insane traffic, delays, wasted time and emissions and inconvenience forever, as DOT in a knee-jerk, useless, pointless reaction – that wouldn’t have saved his life anyway – has now decided to make McGuinness a one-lane street.
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