MIAMI (CBS4) – It was a story that stunned South Florida for its brutality. Rene Betancourt, found in his car beaten so badly doctors were not sure he would live, taken to the hospital by his family who begged for help in finding his attackers.
Now, in an amazing turn of events, CBS4 has learned Betancourt was not attacked and he was not beat up. Surveillance video first obtained by CBS4 News shows he ran into a wall while skateboarding.
The news came just two weeks after the attack, and shortly after heroic work by doctors at Ryder Trauma Center and Jackson Memorial Hospital repaired his injuries with stitches so well he was allowed to leave the h0spital.
Betancourt spoke with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench as he was taken from the hospital in a wheelchair and where his loved ones say a remarkable recovery took place.
“I’m a lucky guy,” he told D’Oench. “I’m in pain but I just want to go home. I have had a lot of support from my family and I needed it. I am grateful.”
Betancourt said three men beat him brutally and stole his wallet containing $20, his drivers license and a debit card.
He said the attack happened at Northeast 3rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard while waiting to meet some skateboarders.
However, new surveillance tape made available by Miami police detectives showed that Betancourt was not attacked. The tape shows him skateboarding, at one point losing his footing. He got up, mounted the skateboard, and tried again.
That’s when the tape showed him smashing into a low wall, faceplanting. He laid there for about 5 minutes before regaining consciousness.
“He was not attacked,” said Miami Police homicide detective Confesor Gonzalez. He told D’Oench, “As this video shows, it is clear and convincing that he was injured as a result of this accident.”
Gonzalez said “good police work” lead them to the new surveillance tape which showed images from the 8th floor of a parking garage near Northwest 12th Avenue and 14th Street and not far from where Betancourt was found slumped in his car by family members at 11 a.m. on Saturday July 7th.
Gonzalez told D’Oench that Betancourt did not deliberately deceive detectives and is not expected to face any charges, even though the case remains open.
“It’s logical that he did receive several blows to the head,” said Gonzalez. “It’s logical to deduce that he was disoriented, unsure and confused. I do not believe he misled us.”
Police said they communicated what they found to family members, who now say Betancourt was likely confused by the fall and may have thought he was attacked.
D’Oench caught up with Betancourt’s father, Rene, who told him, “Our first concern was our son’s health. Now we feel a lot better that he was not attacked and it is not something he will have to live with for the rest of his life.”
“Doctors told us he was injured as a result of blunt trauma,” said Betancourt. “He had no abrasions on his skin. And it was believed that it was blunt trauma caused by the attack. Actually I thought what really happened is that he was attacked. I thought it was the result of that blunt force trauma.”
“Doctors and police kept talking about that blunt force and it never occurred to me that it was an accident,” said Betancourt.
Before the interview, Betancourt looked at the surveillance video released by police and told D’Oench he was very surprised by the images he saw. He said he hoped that one day, his son would remember exactly what happened to him.
“When my son going into surgery originally, I asked him, what happened? He told me he was attacked by three to four men,” Betancourt.
Police say they are no longer searching for any suspects..
According to the police report, he suffered a fractured skull, fractured left orbital bone, a laceration to the heat, and had blood clots in his head. He wasn’t admitted into the hospital until hours after the attack because he apparently tried to drive himself to the hospital.
He underwent two major brain surgeries including one in which doctors inserted a titanium plate in his fractured skull.
In addition to his head trauma, which doctors said was inflicted by a blunt object, Betancourt’s nose was broken, several of his teeth were knocked out and his left eye was injured.
Betancourt’s father said his son will need months of rehabilitation and surgeries for his shattered nose and an operation on the orbital bone over his eyes. Betancourt does have double vision.
One thing has not changed. Betancourt, a college student, still has no insurance to cover the cost of his treatment. The Jackson Memorial Foundation started a fund a week ago to help Betancourt’s family with medical expenses. Neighbors 4 Neighbors is also assisting Rene Betancourt’s family.