DA may add charges against hit-and-run suspect

By Bryan Schwartzman

Nakaya Stallings of Springfield Gardens has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly driving a yellow school mini-bus into a 50-year-old woman and killing her Nov. 20 at 85th Avenue and 164th Street, said Detective Louis Amen of the Accident Investigations Squad.

Stallings did not have a proper commercial license to operate the vehicle, said Amen.

Joe Pichy, a spokesman for the DMV, said a bus driver needs a standard commercial license to drive the type of mini-bus operated by the Cooper Bus Company. Extra road tests are required for a license to drive a bus over 26,000 pounds.

The criminal complaint filed by the DA's office made no mention of Stallings not having a commercial license, but a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said it was possible more charges may be filed against the driver.

Mary de Bourbon, a spokesman for the DA, said the case was still under investigation and the office was looking in whether more charges would be filed against Stallings.

Stallings was scheduled to make a court appearance Wednesday morning. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted of fleeing the scene of the accident, said Betsy Herzog, another spokeswoman for the DA.

Soccoro Mercardo was killed just three blocks from her home at 85-36 161st St. in Jamaica Hills, said John Buthorn, a police spokesman.

An autopsy showed the cause of death was blunt impacts to the head and torso with multiple fractures and visceral injuries, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's office.

Stallings is a driver for the Cooper Transportation Company, based in South Jamaica. He was on his way back from dropping off children at the Highland Elementary School, a small private school located just off the Long Island Expressway in Auburndale.

The principal of the school, who identified herself only as Ms. Corn, said it sometimes uses the Cooper Transportation Company to bring children to school. But she maintained the school did not have a contract with the company.

When asked how this was possible, Corn said, “I have no more information to give you” and she hung up the phone.

Cooper Transportation Company has been registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to operate school buses since 1986, said Joe Pichy, a spokesman for the DMV. The company has not received any violations or citations, said Pichy.

A spokesman at Community Board 11, which encompasses the Highland Elementary School on Peck Avenue, said the board had not received any complaints about the buses going to the school.

The company is owned by the Rev. Thomas Cooper of 165-14 116th Ave. in South Jamaica, which is also the address listed for the bus company. Last week about six yellow mini-buses were parked in the driveway or on the street near the home.

Cooper did not return several phone calls to his home requesting comment on the accident and the status of the bus company.

Cooper is the pastor of the Bronx Tabernacle Gospel Church at 2067 Honeywell Ave., said Pichy. Neither the phone book nor 411 information listed a church at that address.

“There are so many of these little bus companies it's hard to keep track,” said Diane Cohen, the district manager of Community Board 8, which covers the area where the woman was killed.

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