A Brooklyn pastor said he was so busy eating an ice cream cone that he didn’t notice he fatally mowed down an 88-year-old woman in his BMW and fled the scene, prosecutors charged at his arraignment.
Wayne Stokeling, pastor of St. John’s Baptist Church on Bainbridge St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, was driving without a license when he plowed into Isabel Rodriguez, who was crossing the intersection of Stone Avenue and Livonia Avenue near her Brownsville home about 8:45 p.m.
Stokeling, 50, sped away, continuing south on Stone Avenue, police said. One of his side view mirrors snapped off and was left behind at the scene.
Rodriguez was launched 15 feet into the air and landed on her head, prosecutors said. She was rushed unconscious to Brookdale University Hospital, where she died, officials said.
After witnesses described the dark-colored BMW sedan to police, cops spotted the damaged vehicle - with cracks on the windshield and dents on the body - just a few blocks away at the corner of Riverdale Avenue and Watkins Street.Stokeling told the officers the dents were caused by potholes and he was distracted by the tasty treat he was devouring, prosecutors said.“Sometimes, accidents happen,” Stokeling’s attorney, Scott Brettschneider, said in court. “It was a tragic accident, but it was an accident.”
Rodriguez lived with her 86-year-old sister in the Tilden Houses, neighbors said.
“We call them the kissing sisters because as soon as they come outside they would just hug and kiss us,” said Mable Spence, 49.
“When I heard this morning, I started crying. She was just such a sweet person.”
Stokeling was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident and driving without a license. He has an open warrant on a motor vehicle-related charge, according to police sources, and four prior arrests, including one for driving without a license.
Stokeling is described as an “outstanding community activist” who has given speeches around the world, sponsored the construction of affordable housing and started drug and alcohol counseling programs on a website for a public relations firm promoting him.
He has led St. John’s Baptist Church since 1986, according to the site.
Officials at the church refused to speak to a reporter.
Stokeling was held in lieu of $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail. He is due back in court on July 27.