MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Pinecrest officer is fighting for her job after her Police Chief recommended that she be fired after she was apparently caught on camera failing to render aid after a horrific accident.
In court on Monday, thirty-year-old officer Ana Carrasco appealed the recommendation at a hearing at Village Hall.
A supervisor recommended Carrasco be suspended but after dash cam video from her patrol car showed the officer standing with her hands in her pockets watching an off duty officer try to help the victim, Pinecrest Police Chief Samuel Ceballos fired her for not trying to help.
“That is 100% not true, ” said John Rivera of the Police Benevolent Association. The union backed the fired officer at Monday’s closed door appeals hearing before village manager Yocelyn Gomez.
Carrasco says it would have been dangerous to try to help the victims in the middle of the street and that the victims were obviously fatally injured.
“Both victims were beyond help. One was absolutely dead and one was seconds away from dying,” said Rivera.
“It’s sad the city didn’t look into this as deeply as it should have,” said Rivera. “There were many things about the investigation that were not brought to light, that were not discovered and our officer deserves due process.”
The city manager has 10 days to make a ruling.
The Chief’s decision was commended by prominent Coral Gables attorney Ervin Gonzalez, who is representing the victims’ families in his lawsuit against the driver who hit them.
“I think it’s unfortunate the police officer did not do her duty,” said Gonzalez. “They are trained to save lives and they take the oath to save lives. It’s a shame. She saw two people gurgling and literally taking their last breath and she didn’t take action to save their lives. I think the police department did the right thing in recommending the termination of an officer who does not have her heart and soul in her job.”
Gonzalez said “This is a very difficult job. Only individuals who are passionate and fully dedicated should serve. Failing to help save someone’s life when they can is unforgiveable.”
Gonzalez said CPR efforts would have not made a difference for either victim, but no one knew that at the time. While one officer acted heroically, Gonzalez said, the other shirked her duty as an officer and a human being.
Carrasco has been with Pinecrest Police since October of 2012.
The accident occurred October 16th, 2013 when a driver struck two University of Miami graduate students, Ying Chen and Hao Liu. They did not survive.
Off-duty Miami Police Sergeant Javier Ortiz happened to be in the area and came upon the scene immediately.
“I jumped out of my car, I have a defibrillator, and checked the vitals on both victims,” said Ortiz. “I immediately started CPR on the female. It was just me. I had no one to work on the male and I was waiting for help to arrive.”
When Carrasco arrived on the scene, dash cam video from her patrol car showed the officer standing with her hands in her pockets watching Ortiz try to help the stricken female student.
Ortiz said he begged her to help.
“I said it again and again and again,” Ortiz said. “There were people, civilians, yelling at her to please do something and she did absolutely nothing.”
Ortiz told CBS4’s Gary Nelson, “The man had a weak pulse. The issue is whether she rendered aid as required by law. She did not. She…contributed to his death,” said Ortiz.
In recorded statements, witnesses said Officer Carrasco did not help the victims.
When questioned as part of an internal affairs investigation, Carrasco reportedly said she gave Ortiz a pair of gloves when he asked for them, told bystanders to back away from the scene and tried to locate the vehicle that hit the victims which was stopped a short distance away.
A recording of Carrasco’s statement says, “I actually made a visual assessment on the male facing down. I didn’t see him breathing I didn’t see his lungs or chest expanding or any signs of life.”
Later she said, “Based on my training, education, experience I was concerned flipping the male victim over. I was concerned it could cause cervical or spinal injury and maybe kill him. I don’t know if he’s dead or not. I run back to my car to see if I have more gloves to see if I can search for any vital signs at that time rescue arrived.”
She said she never checked vital signs because she didn’t have another pair of gloves.
A thirty-two page investigative report by Pinecrest Police, obtained by CBS4 News, found Officer Carrasco failed to render aid at an accident involving serious injury.