4 killed in wrong-way wreck, suspect hospitalized
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. (WSVN) -- A man fleeing from police sped into oncoming traffic on Interstate 95 near Ives Dairy Road and killed four innocent people.
According to Opa-Locka Police, they have identified the suspect as 24-year-old Paolo LaFrance, as the man who fled police when he drove a Chevy Suburban north in the southbound lanes of I-95 Wednesday at around 1 a.m. He would soon collide head-on with a mini-van, killing all four passengers inside. "I've been doing this for about 25 years, and this is one of the worst accidents that I have seen," said Florida Highway Patrol Joe Sanchez.
Police said the incident occurred when an Opa-Locka Police noticed LaFrance engaging in suspicious activities. "What we do know is the suspect was fleeing and a weapon was found, and the investigation is ongoing until the investigation is complete, I wouldn't want to speculate anything other then the facts that we have," said Opa-Locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton.
Chiverton said a gun was found on the scene. "A gun was found. The officer observed it being thrown out as he exited Ives Dairy Road, which was 203rd Street on the northbound exit," he said.
Rescue crews transported LaFrance to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with two broken legs.
Jeff Kopelman was driving south on I-95 when he saw the massive collision, "I saw them; it was just one big great ball of smoke," said Kopelman
"We knew right away there had to have been fatalities ... it was just, I've never seen anything like it," said Kopelman.
Chiverton said the officer did not follow LaFrance when he jumped on the wrong side of I-95. "He was going north in the southbound lanes of traffic," said Chiverton.
According to Chiverton, a man walked into the police station and said LaFrance stole his identity. The man said he is the real LaFrance. Police are now in the process of figuring out if the suspect has a different name.
Police chase policies vary from departments. Broward Sheriff's Office policy say: "Pursuits are authorized for violent suspects when the deputy has reasonable belief that the fleeing driver poses an imminent threat of physical harm to the public."
Miami-Dade Police say: "Officers may only engage in pursuits when they have reasonable belief that the fleeing subject has committed or attempted to commit a felony, which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence to a person. All other pursuits are prohibited."
"The officer is on administrative leave, which is standard until the investigation is complete," said Chiverton.
Opa-Locka is not talking about their policies at this time.
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