Exclusive: City Of Hialeah Sued In Deadly Police-Involved Crash
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South Florida Crime
HIALEAH (CBS4) – CBS4 has obtained striking new surveillance tape of a deadly crash involving a Hialeah Police cruiser.
That crash took the life of the daughter of a Miami-Dade School Board member. Now, the attorney for the survivor of that crash has filed a lawsuit against the City of Hialeah.
“I was in a wheelchair for close to 5 months. Something must happen,” said that survivor, Marco Barrios, in an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “It’s been 6 months now since this happened and something must be done about it.”
Barrios’s attorney, John Leighton, obtained the new surveillance tape from a car dealership across the street from where the incident happened at 9:42 p.m. on October 19, 2012 at the corner of East 9th Court and 49th Street in Hialeah.
Leighton told D’Oench that said the surveillance tape shows what happens just after a 2012 black Jeep driven by 23-year-old Marco Barrios was broadsided by a cruiser driven by Hialeah Police Officer Raul Somarriba.
The accident took the life of Barrios’s girlfriend, Andrea Castillo, 21, and left with Barrios with a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and head and internal injuries. Castillo was the daughter of Miami-Dade School Board member Susie Castillo.
The surveillance tape shows the sudden impact when the black SUV that Barrios is driving is struck. The tape shows the vehicle rolling over and hurtling into and damaging cars at the dealership.
“You can tell the police car hit the jeep with such impact it has pushed it half a block and rolled it over so there was a lot of speed and a lot of momentum,” said Leighton.
In his lawsuit that was filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Leighton shows a photograph of the mangled back SUV and says Somarriba “negligently,
Carelessly and recklessly” operated his vehicle on a road with a posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour.
“The evidence we have so far was that the police officer was driving without lights or siren on in excess of 85 miles per hour,” Leighton told D’Oench. “He may have been going in excess of 100 miles per hour on the road. It’s unacceptable and under any circumstances you don’t put the public in danger like this. This mistake cost one woman her life and cost Marco his health.”
“This lawsuit is going to open up the box and allow us to look inside to see what Hialeah’s been hiding so we can let everyone know what happened that night,” said Leighton. “We’re going to see what evidence the city has of the speed and this is evidence the city has refused to turn over so far. It’s been kept from the public.”
PThe lawsuit says Somarriba failed to operate his vehicle in a safe manner and obey traffic signals and failed to use proper headlights.
Leighton said it’s still not clear where Somarriba was heading and why he was driving so fast.
Leighton said Barrios had stopped a stop sign before his SUV was struck. He said evidence shows that both Barrios and Castillo were wearing their seatbelts.
Leighton said other images from the surveillance tape appear to show that Barrios came to a stop before proceeding on to 49th Street.
The lawsuit does not mention a dollar amount. “The amount will be up to the jury,” said Leighton.
Leighton also said under Florida’s Sovereign Immunity Law, damages in this case against a city are limited to $200,000.
“There is an exception to this if you can get the legislature to look a verdict in your favor and then pass a claims bill,” said Leighton. “But that has not happened very much. Marco Barrios may be in the hole financially for the rest of his life because of uncovered medical expenses. I took this case because this is important.”
Barrios has recently returned to his job as the manager of a Homestead restaurant and is walking again after being confined to a wheelchair for four and half months.
Police say Somarriba was also seriously injured and is still on a “no work status.” The city has not allowed him to comment about the accident.
Barrios had extensive medical bills and says he may never recover fully from all of his injuries.
He said of Somarriba, “He’s supposed to be a role model for our society. He’s supposed to be a police officer and anybody breaking the rules that badly, we deserve some justice. I never saw him at the time of the accident. So he had to be going at least 80 miles per hour or more.”