An Opa-locka police corporal who pursued a suspect involved in a fatal wrong way crash on I-95 Wednesday morning was fired from the Miami Shores Police Department before he started there.
Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad told Local 10's Todd Tongen that Sergio Perez was terminated after he was arrested for drag racing in December 2006.
Perez pursued Willie Dumel, who was arrested Wednesday after the crash, according to an arrest affidavit. He was charged with fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer. Other charges against him are pending.
Perez's law enforcement history
Records from the Opa-locka Police Department Internal Affairs unit show Perez has been investigated at least three times for official misconduct.
In October 2009, he was accused of punching a woman in the face. She suffered facial fractures and required surgery.
In January 2010, a man said Perez assaulted him, stating Perez "pulled his patrol car over, got out, and walked around, then opened the back door and punched the suspect numerous times."
In May 2011, a complaint stated Perez beat a suspect with a police radio.
Perez was cleared of any wrongdoing in all three investigations. His record shows he also had numerous commendations for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The chase and the crash
According to the arrest affidavit, Opa-locka Police Corporal Sergio Perez observed a black Chevrolet Suburban make an improper right turn from the center lane at Northwest 22nd Avenue and S.R. 9. A recording of police communications during the pursuit indicate Perez recognized Dumel or the vehicle in connection with a robbery.
When Perez activated his emergency lights and sirens, Dumel drove away, according to the affidavit. Dumel entered northbound I-95 at the Golden Glades Interchange, then exited westbound at Ives Dairy Road. He then entered the southbound exit ramp at Ives Dairy Road but was heading northbound.
Dumel hit a minivan head-on, killing the four people inside, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Those four were identified as: Dennis Ryan Rinon Ortiz, 33, of California; Albertson Anthony Almase, 31, of Fort Lauderdale; Kristina Almase, 26, of Fort Lauderdale; and, Lily Marie Azarcon, 26, of the Philippines.
'We're going northbound in the southbound lanes'
Whether Perez followed Dumel onto I-95 in the wrong direction isn't indicated in the arrest affidavit.
"My understanding is the chase was broken off at the exit ramp of Ives Dairy Road," Opa-locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton said Wednesday.
But a recording of police communications during the pursuit showed Perez may have still been pursing Dumel when he entered I-95 in the wrong direction.
"This guy is all over the road. Now he's going against traffic on I-95. We're going northbound in the southbound lanes," said Perez, according to the recording.
"Where's the civilian's vehicle?" asked a dispatcher.
"On the shoulder," answered Perez.
Perez then apprehended Dumel.
"The subject's here. I got him at gunpoint," said Perez.
According to the department's chase protocol, "Officers shall not operate their vehicle in a manner that causes them to go against the flow of traffic in an effort to maintain contact with the fleeing vehicle. Officers shall try to parallel the fleeing vehicle by going with the flow of traffic and keeping other units advised via radio."
Perez was put on administrative leave.
Dumel broke his legs in the crash. He was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Dumel told officers his name was Paolo Lafrance.
"It is believed that the defendant gave that name in an attempt to conceal his true identity," stated the arrest affidavit. "Defendant's license is suspended and defendant has a possible warrant for probation violation."
What police found
Property receipts show police recovered a firearm and magazine that police said Dumel threw out of the car when he first exited Ives Dairy Road. The receipt indicates the gun was fake.
Officers also found a white powdery substance resembling cocaine in Dumel's pocket, according to a police report.
Mayor promises thorough investigation
"As a mother, a sister and a wife, my heart goes out to the family of those killed in that accident," Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor said in a statement Thursday. "We will do a thorough investigation on our end. No stone will be left unturned. There will be no cover up. We will get to the bottom of this."
City Manager issues statement
Opa-locka City Manager Kelvin L. Baker, Sr. issued the following statement on Friday in regards to Wednesday's accident:
"Our hearts are broken by the loss of the four people who died in Wednesday’s tragic accident.
On behalf of the Mayor and Commissioners, our condolences go out to the parents and families of each of these individuals. This is a great loss for these families and for our community.
As civil servants in the Opa-locka community, we are dedicated to transparency and open communication with our residents and with our partnering agencies. We are working with multiple agencies both local and state to conduct a thorough investigation.
Our Police Chief Jeffrey Key is committed to gathering facts and combing through the evidence before presenting an objective report.
We encourage our community to join us in prayer for these families."