Questions Raised In Deadly Crash Involving Hialeah Cop
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time we are hearing from the sister of a 23-year-old man who was nearly killed when an unmarked police car struck his SUV and took the life of a daughter of a newly-elected Miami-Dade School Board member.
“They had their whole life ahead of them. It’s terrible what’s happening. I miss her so much,” said Hazel Gorrin, the sister of Marco Barrios, who is in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital with head and internal injuries and a broken pelvis and shoulder bone after the accident.
“We loved her so much and my mother loved her so much. It is hard for both of us. And my brother is a smart sweet kid,” Gorrin told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
“My brother and her had been going out for the past two years and he had just been promoted to manager of his restaurant,” Gorrin said. “They were making plans together. It’s horrible. It’s horrible what happened to her. Andi deserved better than that. Andi didn’t deserve to die. My brother loved her so much. She’s in all our hearts and our family. She was like another daughter to my parents and a sister to us. She’s the love of my brother.”
“I do want to see some answers,” she said. “I hope this investigation will see what happened. Emotionally, I am in deep pain. He is my brother. He is a hard working kid and dedicated. It breaks all of our hearts. My brother was loved by so many people.”
Questions have also been raised concerning the Hialeah Police Departments initial findings in their investigation of the deadly crash.
Andrea Castillo, the daughter of board member Susie Castillo, died Sunday after the accident along E 49th Street and 9th Court Friday night.
Castillo, 21, and Barrios were in a black Jeep Compass when officer Raul Somarriga, who was driving an unmarked cruiser, slammed into them.
Somarriba was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, while Castillo and Barrios were not. They were transported via ambulance.
“Air rescue transported the police officer because he met the highest degree of severity of injuries at the time they were triaged,” said Hialeah Fire Department Captain Cesar Espinosa who added that all three made it to the hospital within 30 minutes.
But John Elliott Leighton, the attorney for the Barrios family, questioned that. “Why was the officer the only one taken by Air Rescue?” Leighton asked. “You can’t tell me air rescue is not faster. If it’s not, why use it.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue told CBS4’s Kara Kostanitch that air rescue was equipped with enough personnel to take more than one person on board Friday night. There were two paramedics in the chopper which they say can handle more than one patient.
Tuesday Hialeah police said Barrios ran the stop sign at the intersection and ended up in the path of Somarriba’s cruiser.
“This is a stop-sign accident. Nothing more, nothing less,” said police spokesman Det. Carl Zogby who added that the initial findings of their investigation found that speed was not a factor.
An attorney for the Barrios family said the length of the skid marks and witnesses prove otherwise.
“We know for a fact that the police officer was driving 70 to 100 miles per hour and driving without his lights on,” said attorney John Elliott. “The physical damage and the evidence and the high impact of this crash clearly demonstrates something above 70 miles per hour. There were witnesses on the scene who saw the entire event taking place.”
The posted speed limit at the crash site is 40 miles per hour.
Elliott told D’Oench that he had the name of at least one witness but that witness was afraid to come forward and speak.
On Tuesday, Hialeah police said Barrios and Castillo were not wearing their seat belts. This is another statement Leighton has a problem with because he has a photo which clearly shows seat belt marks on Barrios left shoulder. “It shows seat belt marks from a very violent crash.”
Leighton has sent a letter to Hialeah’s police chief and mayor requesting that the city turn over its investigation to the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Traffic Homicide Unit.
“This is a highly charged case,” said Leighton. “The potential for a cover up exists. We need this done now.”
“The city of Hialeah has a conflict of interest in this case plus this is a suspicious incident, when you have an unmarked police car that broadsides two innocent people, killing one of them and putting the other into ICU. The Miami-Dade Police department is absolutely as independent as you can get. They are highly trained individuals.
A traffic crash report obtained by CBS4 also reveals that police conducted blood alcohol tests of Castillo and Barrios because the use of alcohol was suspected. Those tests are pending. But officer Somarriba was not tested because the report said the use of alcohol was not suspected.
“That test should have been conducted of the officer and that is another question we have,” said Leighton. “Why was such a test not done.”
CBS4 was able to reach Det. Zogby on Wednesday, but he said his department would not have any more comment about this case, after speaking at the newsconference on Tuesday.
Hialeah police confirmed there is surveillance video of the wreck and said it would be released after they have wrapped up their investigation.
Attorneys have been trying to get a look at the surveillance video from the scene.
Castillo worked as a Recreation Service Aide at Doral Meadow Park from May 2011 until March 2012.
According to the city Castillo, who had a passion for working with kids, was partially responsible for the safety and supervision of the children when they took part in organized activities such tennis camps or youth summer programs.