Castillo Calls For Independent Investigation Into Deadly Cop Car Crash
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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The mother of a 21-year-old aspiring teacher who was killed two Friday nights ago in a police-involved crash is calling for Hialeah Police to turn over its investigation to an independent agency.
“I need to know why this happened,” said Susie Castillo, whose 21-year-old daughter Andrea was killed in the accident on October 19th along E 49th Street and 9th Court. Andrea’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Marco Barrios, was also seriously injured when police say his black SUV collided with officer Raul Somarriba’s unmarked police car, while he was on duty.
“I need an investigation. I need transparency. Hialeah is not doing that for us,” said Castillo, speaking out for the first time since the accident.
She told CBS4′s Peter D’Oench, “I am demanding an investigation from an independent agency.”
“My family and I are completely devastated with what happened to my daughter,” she said. “She just turned 21 the day before the accident. She had her whole future ahead of her. She was just accepted by F.I.U. What she wanted was to become a teacher. She was just starting everything.”
“I grew up in Hialeah and I have a lot of unanswered questions,” Castillo said. “It really hurts the way I was treated. I was never contacted by the police department right after the accident. It’s disrespectful to me and disrespectful to any citizen. You don’t treat people that way. It’s like my family doesn’t exist anymore.”
Castillo told CBS4 that she wants to know why the officer was the only one airlifted when reports said the chopper had enough room and two paramedics on board to help two patients.
“From what I understand she was the only one unconscious there,” she said. “The fact that she was unconscious, it seemed logical that you should take that person on board the chopper. There is no reason she shouldn’t have been on that chopper.”
“It seems to me like the only one important was the cop because he was the only one airlifted and the only one they paid attention to,” Castillo said.
At a news conference on October 23rd, Fire Rescue officials said Somarriba appeared to be in the worst shape of all three people in the accident and that was why he was airlifted.
“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 on October 23rd. He added that all three patients made it to the hospital within 30 minutes.
At the time, it was not publicly know that there was room on the helicopter for two patients.
“Why was the officer the only one taken by Air Rescue?” asked the Barrios family attorney, John Leighton. “You can’t tell me air rescue is not faster. If it’s not, why use it.”
Castillo wants to know what speed Somarriba was going. The attorney for Barrios, John Leighton, told CBS4 that based on the evidence including the 40 yards of skid marks and testimony from eyewitnesses, the officer was driving anywhere between 70 and 100 miles per hour.
The speed limit along E 49th Street is 40 miles per hour.
And on Wednesday, the attorney for Castillo, Jorge Castillo, told CBS4, “I can tell you he was absolutely flying.”
“This is a stop-sign accident. Nothing more, nothing less,” said police spokesman Det. Carl Zogby on October 23rd, adding that the initial findings of the police investigation found that speed was not a factor.
Reports also indicate the officer was given no blood alcohol tests. Andrea Castillo and Marco Barrios were tested because, according to a police report, police suspected that alcohol might have been involved.
Castillo said, “If they are going to test anyone, test all of them. But from everything I know, after conversations with her friends, she didn’t drink and they did have their seatbelts on.”
Barrios’s sister Hazel Gorrin also said that her brother is disputing a police claim that he ran the stop sign at the intersection.
“We did ask him about this and he says he does remember stopping,” said Gorrin. As her family released new photographs of Barrios in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital and with Andrea Castillo before the accident, she said “he’s not doing so well after an operation on his pelvis.”
Barrios has internal and head injuries and suffered a fractured pelvis and shoulder bone.
“It’s probably going to be months before he can learn to walk again.” she said. “Emotionally he’s a mess. He’s devastated. Everyone wants justice and to know what is going on. We want answers. We want to know what speed the officer was going.
“We know for a fact that Marco and Andi were wearing their seat belts,” said Leighton.
Leighton also said, “There’s been no response from Hialeah Police to my request that the Miami-Dade traffic homicide unit take over the investigation. I have also learned that business owners in the area have been told by police not to turn over any of their surveillance tape. There has been intimidation of witnesses.”
“We believe that Hialeah Police can not investigate this case impartially,” said Leighton. “We will ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to become involved with this case if Miami-Dade Police do not get involved.”
Castillo, who is a recently-elected member of the Miami-Dade School Board, will be sworn in during November.
“My daughter was such a big part of my campaign,” she said. “She gave her time and her love. I think I have a responsibility to go forward in her honor.”
Both of the attorneys for the Barrios family and Susie Castillo are considering lawsuits in this case.
CBS4 reached out to Detecctive Zogby for comment. But he said until the investigation was finished, he could not comment any further.
Hialeah Police have confirmed that there is surveillance video of the wreck and said it would be released after the investigation is wrapped up.