Dispatch call raises questions in wrong way crash
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. (WSVN) -- AA dispatch call placed during a high-speed chase on Interstate 95, which ended in a collision that claimed the lives of four people, raises the possibility that an Opa-Locka officer may have been driving against traffic, a violation of the city's chase policy.
Officials said 25-year-old North Miami Beach resident Willie Dumel slammed into a minivan Wednesday morning while driving against traffic on I-95. All four occupants inside the minivan were killed. Dumel survived the crash but sustained fractures to both legs.
Later that day, Opa-Locka city officials said that Opa-Locka Police Cpl. Sergio Perez, the officer who had initiated the traffic stop that sent Dumel speeding off, called off the chase after Dumel jumped onto the wrong side of I-95. "My understanding is the chase was broken off at the exit ramp on Ives Dairy Road," said Opa-Locka Asst. City Manager David Chiverton. When asked whether the officers chasing after Dumel followed the driver onto oncoming traffic, Chiverton replied, "My understanding is that the officer did not."
Police radio chatter from Broadcastify.com, a website that reports police transmissions, suggests otherwise. "This guy is all over the road, [and] now he's going against traffic on I-95," the officer said during the dispatch call as he sped after the suspect. "We're going northbound in the southbound lanes." The City of Opa-Locka chase policy states that "officers shall not operate their vehicle in a manner that causes them to go against the flow of traffic in an effort to make contact with a fleeing vehicle."
Police said the incident started with an attempted traffic stop in Opa-Locka. They said Dumel sped northbound on I-95, exiting on Ives Dairy Road. Investigators said he then headed west on the overpass. Dumel then got back on to I-95 in the southbound lanes but headed north.
Witnesses like Jeff Kopelman, who was driving south on I-95 when he saw the massive collision, do not recall a police officer chasing the subject. "I really don't know if the police were in pursuit on I-95 going the wrong way as the other car was," he said.
Dumel's decision would have deadly results. "I saw them, boom, it was one big, great ball of smoke," Kopelman said.
Florida Highway Patrol officials said two of the victims were brother and sister, Fort Lauderdale residents Kristina A. Almase, 26, and Albertson Anthony Almase, 31. They identified the other two victims as 33-year-old Dennis Ortiz of California and 26-year-old Lily Marie Azarcon of the Philippines.
U.S. Navy officials confirmed Albertson Almase was a naval petty officer. Kristina's family confirmed that she left behind a 4-year-old girl. A statement from the Almase family reads, "Our family is devastated, and we will remember Albertson and Kristina as positive and joyful people. They brought a lot of happiness to the lives of people who knew them and loved them. We will miss them."
"The investigation is still ongoing," said Chiverton, "and I don't have any more comments at this time." Perez is currently on administrative leave as the police investigation continues.
Dumel remains in the hospital. He faces a very long list of charges.
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