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Prosecutor: Hempstead defendant used SUV as a deadly weapon

Shania Buchanan leaves Nassau Police headquarters to be

Shania Buchanan leaves Nassau Police headquarters to be arraigned on Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A prosecutor told jurors Monday a Hempstead woman is guilty of murder because she “brought a 4,000-pound, 4-wheel weapon” to a fight, killing one innocent bystander and injuring two others by driving into them while racing to defend her mother in a brawl.

But Jeffrey Groder, a lawyer for Shania Buchanan, 24, countered at her Nassau County Court trial that the April 20, 2016, incident on Linden Avenue in Hempstead was a tragic accident that didn’t involve any crimes on her part.

Prosecutor Michael Bushwack contended Buchanan committed second-degree murder by showing “a depraved indifference” to the life of Barbara Reid, recklessly causing the 56-year-old’s death by plowing the pedestrian down from behind the wheel of a 1999 Nissan Pathfinder.

Reid had been standing nearby and watching a fight in the driveway of Buchanan’s mother’s home when she suffered injuries in the impact that included a broken neck and fractured skull, along with the brain laceration that killed the Hempstead resident hours later, according to the prosecution.

“She brought a 4,000-pound, 4-wheel weapon to this fight . . . She turned this fight deadly,” Bushwack said of Buchanan, also on trial for multiple assault counts, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

The prosecutor said Buchanan made a dangerous U-turn “and raced towards her mother’s house with a vengeance” after getting a call from a sister saying their mother was losing a fight against a member of another family with whom there was “bad blood.”

Buchanan’s mother and another woman had pepper-sprayed each other and broken each other’s car windows, and a crowd of 40 or 50 people had gathered, Bushwack said.

Buchanan careened onto the block at 60 or 70 miles an hour before first hitting pedestrian Betty Sanders, then 45, who suffered a broken femur, bicyclist Jose Mena, then 59, who suffered a fractured spine, and then Reid, according to the prosecution.

Buchanan later told authorities her brakes failed. The prosecution said the Pathfinder’s brakes passed mechanical testing, but the defense told jurors they would conclude Buchanan had applied her brakes and a test showed there wasn’t enough time to stop the vehicle at the rate she was driving.

“This was an effort to make this case on her back,” Groder, of Mineola, told jurors about the post-crash investigation. “The facts were not going to get in the way.”

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