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March 26, 2019

Driver who fatally struck 82-year-old Brooklyn man tried to pass himself off as a witness, victim’s family says

March 13, 2019
82-year-old Evaristo Mercado was struck by a van while crossing Maujer St at Bushwick Avenue, and died the next day from his injuries. (Obtained by News)

A van driver who fatally struck an 82-year-old man in Brooklyn over the weekend lied to both police and the doomed pedestrian at the scene, trying to claim that another driver hit the man and rode off, the victim’s family claimed.

Mark Smith, 57, pretended he was a witness to the Saturday crash that cost Evaristo Mercado his life, but surveillance video revealed the lie, Mercado’s daughter Karla Ferrer told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.

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“He called 911 and reported that it was a black car, not his white van,” Ferrer said. “He also said that to my father.”

Mark Smith leaves Brooklyn Criminal Court Monday, March 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York.
Mark Smith leaves Brooklyn Criminal Court Monday, March 11, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Mercado was crossing Maujer St. at Bushwick Ave. in Williamsburg and was in the crosswalk when Smith made a left turn and hit him at about 5:40 p.m. Saturday, crushing the older man’s legs, police said.

Mercado remained conscious, but died the next day in Woodhull Hospital.

An NYPD spokesman told The News that Smith stayed on the scene, but didn’t initially tell police he was involved.

The victim lived in the Williamsburg Houses, about a block from the crash. Smith, who used to live in the same development, spends his day hustling jobs from his van nearby the complex, neighbors said Monday night.

Ferrer said they saw the NYPD crash report that detailed what Smith said.

“But we saw his van in the video. I don’t understand how he could do this.”

She added, “I was talking to my father at the hospital. He asked, ‘Did you catch the man who hit me?’ He was still alive, and suddenly he was gone.”

Both the police and Brooklyn District Attorney are continuing to investigate the collision, officials said.

Despite his apparent attempts to hide the truth, Smith ultimately admitted to police that he “did hit (Mercado) while defendant turned,” according to court documents.

Smith, who has a Virginia driver’s license, has about 40 prior arrests, police sources said. Prosecutors on Monday arraigned him for failure to yield to a pedestrian, a misdemeanor, and failure to exercise due care, a violation. Smith walked with crutches and wore two mismatched shoes at the arraignment.

“I am suspending your client’s license,” Judge Quynda Santacroce told Smith’s Legal Aid lawyer, Robert Heilbrun, who argued that the charges didn’t warrant a suspension.

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“This is bulls–t,” Smith said, which prompted a quick rebuke from his lawyer: “Don’t say that.”

Heilbrun opposed the judge setting $5,000 bail.

“This is a b-misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 30 days. It’s an administrative code violation. It’s not in the penal code. And it is clearly excessive for the court to set $5,000 bail on a b-misdemeanor. This was a tragic accident,” he said outside court.

On Monday night, Mercado’s daughter, Ferrer, blasted the decision to release Smith on bail. “It’s terrible” she said.

Mercado, a retired commercial driver, loved to feed the animals in the neighborhood. He was going to turn 83 at the end of the month.

“My father was a healthy and active man. He took no medication, only a multi-vitamin,” Ferrer said. “He used to say, I’m going to be 83, and I’m as strong as any young man.”

With Thomas Tracy

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