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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach police officers have detained a man, they believe, may be the driver that led them on a chase that killed a woman and injured two officers.
So far, police said they are interviewing the man to determine if he is the suspect. If so, they will then arrest him on several charges.
The woman was killed in a police officer involved crash on Miami Beach. Authorities have identified her as 68-year-old Ivonne Reyes.
Her friends told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that she lived alone in a second floor apartment at the Byron Gardens apartment building at 7850 Byron Ave. less than three blocks north of the crash scene.
Reyes’s friend Eric Moreno said, “She was such a nice person and a sweet, sweet lady. She always said hello. Now we have lost someone so close to home. It really hits home.”
Another of Reyes’ friends, Irma Cabrera, said “She had such a big heart. A big heart. And she was such a good person. I heard this and can’t believe it. She worked for a longtime at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach.”
A photograph of Reyes was placed inside the first floor by an elevator at Byron Gardens. A member of the Byron Gardens Board of Directors said that police were at her apartment building at 6 a.m. They knocked on Reyes door and also discovered that Reyes lived there alone.
According to police, Monday night around 11 p.m. an officer spotted a blue BMW that had been reported stolen near 74th Street and Collins Avenue while its owner was inside a store.
When the officer tried to pull the driver over near 76th Street and Dickens Avenue, the BMW sped off. The officer gave chase.
Near 76th Street and Byron Avenue, the officer was involved in a serious crash with a vehicle that was not involved in the chase.
Monica Wetherington-Lugo shared IPhone video she took from her apartment building by the crash scene. “This is horrible,” she said. “This is somebody’s mother, grandmother, sister and to be killed because of a stupid police chase. And I do know that police car’s flashing lights and siren were not on before the crash.”
Miami Beach Police Daniel Oates was asked at a news conference of the car’s siren was on but he said it was too early in the investigation to talk about what happened just before and during the crash.
The police SUV had front end damage, the other vehicle was smashed in on the side and the top appeared to be sheared off.
Neighbor Ben Cruz, a witness, said “Workers had to cut off the top of her car to get her out. I was half asleep when I heard this and there was a very loud bang. This was pretty devastating. Witnesses are saying that they heard no siren before the crash, just sirens afterwards and they say the cruiser did not have its flashing lights on. They just blew through this intersection and she got whacked.”
Reyes was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where she died.
The officer suffered a head and chest injuries and was also taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
When asked about the city’s policy when it comes to police pursuits and if it started before the driver of the stolen vehicle started ramming other cars, Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates said they are looking into it.
“That’s all part of the investigation. Generally, our policy is to pursue for violent felonies. But the totality of the pursuit, all the circumstances, and all the officers’ actions, they are part of a larger investigation into what occurred. But I want to remind everyone, okay, this all started with a dangerous individual stealing a car and driving recklessly through our cities,” said Oates.
Other officers followed the BMW who rammed into two police cars just north of Surfside. He abandoned the stolen vehicle at 53rd Street and the beach and fled on foot. A second officer was also injured.
City Manager Jimmy Morales issued the following statement.
“It’s a sad day for our community as we mourn the loss of a North Beach resident and two injured police officers due to the result of a stolen vehicle late last night. We would like to offer our deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the family of the victim of this tragic accident. There are no words that can undo the tremendous pain and suffering, but the City of Miami Beach is offering all its support to the family during this difficult time.”
Chief Oates says police are canvassing the areas looking for surveillance tape and says once the driver of the stolen car is found, he will face a series of charges including battery on a law enforcement officer, auto theft and felony murder.
The Chief describes the suspect as a black male, with a medium build, who was last seen wearing a white shirt, a white baseball cap and khaki shorts.
Anyone with information that can help police should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305 471-TIPS (8477).