It will be almost one year since Indian American Jeffny Pally was killed in front of the fire department at the University of Connecticut where she was studying to become a nurse.
According to earlier reports, Pally was returning from an off campus party on the night if Oct. 16, 2016 when she ended up plopping herself against the garage door in front of the University of Connecticut’s Fire Department.
Approximately 20 minutes later, firefighter Dana E. Barrow Jr., received a call and rushed to the scene, not knowing that he was going to run over Pally, who had fallen backwards as he opened the garage door and found her lying lifelessly on the ground when he returned 30 minutes later.
State Police said that Pally’s autopsy confirmed that her death was caused by increased consumption of alcohol as her blood alcohol level was .25, which is three times the state’s legal limit, along with blunt-force trauma caused by the vehicle running over her.
However, new surveillance footage obtained by the Hartford Courant suggests otherwise.
According to a police report, Barrow was cleared of committing a crime as investigators reviewed the video and wrote multiple times that the SUV’s tire “contacts, pushes and travels over Pally,” “traveled over the pedestrian” and “traveled up onto and over Pally,” concluding that Barrow was “not knowingly involved in a motor vehicle collision.”
The report adds that Barrow also “felt a bump, but kept driving to the call, figuring he would check when he got back.”
Tolland State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky also told the Hartford Courant that he too reviewed the surveillance video before concurring that Barrow committed no criminal or motor vehicle violations.
“The video is consistent with [Barrow’s] statement that he thought he ran over equipment that was often left around the fire house area,” Gedansky said. “Another factor was that he was going to what he thought was a dorm fire.”
However, Michael Walsh, the Pally family lawyer who gave the Hartford Courant access to the surveillance video, in which it shows that Barrow had a chance to investigate what, was in the SUV’s path before choosing to drive over it.
“There was at least a moment –a moment or two – where the driver of that vehicle perceived an obstacle in his path. He hesitated. He went through a thought process. And he decided to go over that obstacle,” Walsh told the Hartford Courant adding that he has filed a lawsuit against the University of Connecticut and Barrow.
“Regardless of what call he was responding to, taking the one, two, three seconds to essentially open the door, pop out, and look – I don’t understand why that wasn’t done. I don’t understand why the police didn’t look at that,” he added.
The Hartford Courant report continues to unfold the story of the tragic night:
- Pally arrived at her friend’s dorm room between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m., where her and her friends were drinking alcohol prior to attending an off-campus party hosted by members of her sorority and the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
- The group got a “sober ride” ” to the off-campus house, which was about two miles away, at around 10:30 p.m. where about 150 were already partying and the fraternity had stocked up on 30-can packs of beer.
- Pally stayed at the party about two hours and then got into an Uber car with a bunch of her friends, to return to her dorm room shortly after 12:30 a.m.
- A witness told the police that Pally was so intoxicated by then that she kept trying to text a friend who was already in the car.
- Pally and another student were then dropped off to their dorm a friend who was still in the Uber car saw both of them walking in the darkness toward the dormitory building.
Surveillance video then shows that Pally arrived at the fire department at about half a minute past 12:44 a.m., where she seemed to be unsteady on her feet as she swaying back and forth as she types on her iPhone eventually making her way to the edge of the building to lean against a windowed garage door and drops to a sitting position.
A few minutes later, it is seen that her head slowly falls to her knee and she remains motionless until 20 minutes later, Barrow receives a call from a dorm as pranksters begin shooting off a stolen fire extinguisher inside a dormitory, triggering multiple alarms inside the firehouse.
At about half a minute past 1:13 a.m., Barrow opens the garage door to pull out the Chevy Tahoe SUV, causing Pally to fall back however, the video shows that she is lying diagonally across the threshold and Barrow slowly drives forward stopping three seconds later as the SUV’s front passenger tire comes into contact with Pally’s body.
After another second, the vehicle then labors to mount the obstacle in its path. Four seconds pass as the front tire slowly climbs over Pally and pushes her forward. The SUV’s right rear tire then rolls over the teen, the vehicle visibly bouncing as it clears her body.
“I felt a bump as I was pulling out. I was not sure where the bump came from. I thought it was a little unusual, but there have been times that our vehicles have run over equipment left on the ground in the bays,” Barrow told investigators in his written statement to police adding that he did look back in a mirror as he left the station and “saw something on the ground which looked like bunker gear which is stored in the bay. I thought I would take care of it when I got back from the call, because we had 5 smoke detectors going off, and I needed to respond to the fire.”
Less than a minute after Barrow left, a dispatcher glanced at a monitor providing a live feed of the surveillance camera and noticed the garage bay door was open, so she pressed a button to close it. “I did not notice anything out of the ordinary or anything that caught my attention,” she told police. “I was just looking to see if the door was closed.”
State police determined in their report that Pally had been pushed 19 inches by the SUV, which was far enough so that she was no longer blocking the path of the overhead door, allowing it to close properly.
About 25 minutes later, another dispatcher was looking at the monitor, trying to make out a shape in the dark by the garage and said “oh, that’s funny. That kind of looks like a leg,” to which her colleague replied saying “I don’t know; it looks like a shadow.”
Meanwhile, Pally’s boyfriend had texted her, sent a FaceTime request, a Snapchat message and even called her within a 10-minute period.
When Barrow returned from the prank call at about 1:51 a.m., he use his side mirrors to angle the SUV backwards toward the open garage and slowly moved the car closer and closer until he saw something on the ground.
“I noticed that it was a person because I saw a leg,” said Barrow, who was then seen getting out of the Tahoe and kneeling over Pally noticing that she was not breathing and also could not find a pulse.
He later told investigators that her eyes were “wide open and glossy” and that he “saw her mid part of her belly that had either dirt or tire marks on it.”
Barrow returned to the SUV to radio for help and then went into the firehouse, where dispatchers described him as distraught, in shock and remember him saying “I think I killed someone.”
When Barrow returned to Pally’s body, seconds later, paramedics and others came running out of the firehouse, they attended to Pally for 16 minutes but were unable to save her, she was presumed dead at 2:10 a.m.
Along with a blood-alcohol content of .25 percent, Pally’s autopsy showed that she had five broken ribs and injuries to her lungs, liver and the left ventricle of her heart.
Investigators recreated the scene from that night in numerous ways and concluded that “from the line of sight reconstruction it was concluded, that Barrow COULD NOT see Pally in her seated or supine position.”
“The goal in my career is the safety of the kids at the school. I can’t believe this happened to me,” said Barrow, who retired from the University of Connecticut’s Fire Department six months after the incident, he had been there since 1990.
Six, Kappa Sigma fraternity members were also arrested in June and the fraternity has been suspended from the campus.