City refutes manslaughter charges in tourist’s death

Council says there are no sufficient grounds for the charge, but victim’s family counters that the city is shirking its responsibility

The City Council says that while it admits violating traffic rules in the death of an American tourist in August, it does not believe there are sufficient grounds for a manslaughter charge. 


The City Council and the driver of a runaway vehicle that killed 63-year-old Carl Robinson in August were charged in December with negligent manslaughter and various traffic violations. Robinson, a former school psychologist in Baltimore, Maryland, was struck and killed by the malfunctioning rubbish lorry on Copenhagen’s Strøget pedestrian after a city sanitation worker parked and left the vehicle unattended while emptying rubbish bins. 


A sensor in the driver's seat that disengages the vehicle's motor is thought to have malfunctioned, which caused the vehicle to accelerate and strike Robinson.


On Tuesday, the City Council officially denied the manslaughter charge. 


"It is clear that we have violated traffic laws and we are of course committed to ensuring that such a serious accident doesn't happen again," Jens Elmelund, the interim administrative director of the city’s technical affairs department, said in a press release. "But we don't believe that there are sufficient grounds for the manslaughter charge."


The city's stance was not altogether unexpected for Robinson's nephew, Jason Schoenfeld. 


"I don't think we are surprised at all," Schoenfeld said. "The city doesn't seem to take responsibility for anything. This was a city vehicle maintained by the city, tampered with by the city and driven by a city worker, so I am not sure how they can not be responsible."


The city has previously acknowledged its liability and compensation responsibility after being sued by Robinson's family back in October, but Schoenfeld said this week that there still has been no progress. 


"As far as compensation, we have not heard anything or received anything," he said. "We have asked the city to donate to the scholarship fund that is being set up for needy children in the school district [Robinson] worked in, [but] no response has been received."


The family, which has previously complained about poor communication from the city, has said that a scholarship fund is being set up in Baltimore that would carry Robinson's name and be awarded to graduates of Baltimore's city high schools. 


Robinson had recently retired as a school psychologist when he embarked on a Scandinavian cruise last summer. At a stopover in Copenhagen, he was struck by the runaway sanitation lorry and dragged 20 metres underneath the two-tonne vehicle before it struck a wall. He was declared dead on the scene.


Police have informed the City Council that an indictment has been turned in to Copenhagen City Court. The negligent manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison, but Copenhagen Police prosecutor Charlotte Møgelhøj said that police would only seek a fine.