Douglas Kaplan
63 years old

Douglas ‘Dovid’ Kaplan was 23 when he received an honorable discharge from his service in Vietnam. “He was not the same after,” said his brother and fellow veteran, Mark. “It was all of the little things that were different about him.”

Growing up in Washington Heights, Dovid was popular, athletic and a good student. “He was gentle, sweet and kind,” said Mark. Then he joined the military and spent two years stationed in Da Nang as a sniper.

A few years after he returned from Vietnam, in the mid-1970s, Dovid’s life began to fall apart. His nephew Michael believes it was due to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance abuse took over and Dovid lost his job at Con Edison. His marriage broke down and, by the late 1980s, he was on the streets, addicted to crack cocaine.

The low point came in 1993, when Dovid was caught stealing from the poor box of a synagogue in Manhattan. He spent the next year at Rikers Island Prison, which eventually led to a year-long rehab program. His first year of sobriety was 1995.

In 1996, he got married again, to a woman named Malka. He also got a job at a VA hospital, then went back school and received a BA in Health Science at Mercy College. He became close to his son once again and involved himself with his community in Yonkers. “Everywhere we went people knew him,” Michael said. “It was like hanging around with the mayor.”

But Michael believes his uncle remained haunted by his past. “He took lives in Vietnam,” Michael said. “I would see him get lost in his thoughts sometimes. It was a constant struggle for him.” On the morning he died, Dovid was on the way to a meeting with his VA support group where he was looking forward to receiving a new jacket.

This collision happened on September 23, 2014 near 233rd Street and Jerome Avenue in Bronx. See details in the Mean Streets Tracker.

Mean Streets 2014: Who We Lost, How They Lived

Throughout 2014, WNYC tracked the 265 men, women and children killed in traffic crashes in New York City. In addition to reporting the circumstances of their deaths, we looked at who they were in life: mothers, fathers, grandparents, students, recent immigrants and native New Yorkers. To read some of their stories, click on a photograph.