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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – You have to stop at a red light, but did you know that officers also have to stop even when responding to an emergency?
In Sweetwater, they’re expected to use “due care,” but a CBS4 investigation found one cop reportedly sped through a red light causing a crash that ultimately ended with the other driver being cited.
The crash occurred Tuesday, February 17th, during the evening rush hour in Sweetwater.
Video obtained exclusively by CBS4 News shows a patrol car rolling slowly through an intersection to get to a nearby police scene where officer back-up had been requested.
Seconds later, the video shows another cruiser blowing through the red light and colliding with an oncoming pick-up truck on Flagler Street and Southwest 107th Avenue.
The patrol car never stops and doesn’t seem to slow down.
The man driving the pick-up truck, Giobel Diaz Gonzalez, told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana he didn’t have a chance to hit the brakes.
“I have the green light. He’s the one who is supposed to stop,” Gonzalez said.
But Gonzalez was ticketed and ultimately found at fault for the crash.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, the cruiser, driven by Police Officer Alejandro Ramos, “stopped at the red traffic signal and proceeded through the intersection using due care.”
But the red light camera video shows a very different story.
When we showed it to Gonzalez, he felt vindicated.
“Look, he doesn’t stop,” Gonzalez said while watching the video for the first time.
The cruiser’s lights were on, but Gonzalez said he didn’t hear the siren.
After we started asking questions, interim Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz also watched the video.
“It appears the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed with no intent to stop,” he said.
The red light cameras don’t just show cars running through lights, they also capture speed. And according to American Traffic Solutions, Officer Ramos’ patrol car was going 50 miles-per-hour in a 40 mile-per-hour zone.
“It’s rather disturbing,” Chief Diaz said. “Because when you’re driving a police car, first and foremost, you have to look out for the public safety and for your own.”
CBS4 checked Sweetwater policy.
It states, “When approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic light, and a red light is facing the responding unit, said unit will come to a complete stop and proceed only after making sure that it is safe to do so.”
CBS4 pulled records that show Ramos was given a written reprimand because of the wreck.
The police chief at the time, Jesus Menocal, signed off on the disciplinary action, but promptly rescinded it, saying the FHP report showed the other driver at fault.
The same report said Officer Ramos stopped at the light.
“Generally, when you have an issue of that nature and the facts presented here, disciplinary action would stand,” Chief Diaz said. “I know in other departments it would have been more severe.”
It was for the South Miami Police Department.
CBS4 dug deeper into Ramos’ record and found this wasn’t his first time crashing his cruiser.
His handwritten job application for Sweetwater shows he “resigned in lieu of termination” from the South Miami Police Department “due to 4 minor vehicle accidents on duty.”
The four accidents happened over a five month period and were all deemed “preventable.”
A former supervisor wrote Officer Ramos’ driving habits “will undoubtedly lead to termination and will negatively impact his ability to continue a career in law enforcement.”
CBS4 asked whether Ramos’ driving history was taken into consideration when he was hired in Sweetwater.
Chief Diaz said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t in charge at the time.
He said he plans to review all hiring practices.
As for the driver of the pick-up truck, Gonzalez told CBS4 News he spent more than $1,000 to repair his vehicle, plus court costs to fight the ticket.
There are now multiple investigations into the incident.
UPDATE: Tuesday July 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm:
CBS 4 once again reached out to a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Tuesday morning for comment regarding the investigation into the February 17th crash in Sweetwater.
Earlier calls before our story aired were not returned.
In a statement, Trooper Joe Sanchez said, “Based on new information provided to our department by the City of Sweetwater Police Department we’ve reopened the crash investigation. Further review of the crash and new evidence concluded that the Sweetwater Officer ran the red light, failing to use due care and was cited for the crash. We are currently working on voiding the citation issued to the other driver involved in the accident.”
He added, “any other disciplinary action will come from the Sweetwater Police Department.”
Trooper Sanchez said the original report was based on statements from both drivers on scene.
He explained FHP does not have access to red light camera video unless it receives it from another department, as it did in this case from Sweetwater.
We’ve requested the updated crash report and are waiting to obtain it from FHP.