A bicyclist struck by a Miami-Dade police cruiser in Virginia Key plans to sue the department for his medical costs, lost wages, and mental anguish.
The attorney for Alian Nieves Leon, one of two cyclists who were hit by the cruiser while riding on Arthur Lamb Jr. Road late last month, tells New Times he is notifying the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) of Nieves Leon's intent to sue for negligence. The case will be filed in Miami-Dade's circuit court six months after putting the MDPD on notice, as required by law.
According to a crash report provided by the MDPD, Nieves Leon was riding westward along the road with fellow cyclist Hector Echeverria on the morning of June 28 when an MDPD vehicle traveling in the opposite direction turned left at the three-way intersection of Sewage Plant Road and crashed into them. The 57-year-old Echeverria was killed. Nieves Leon, who's 35, sustained injuries to his neck and back.
The MDPD identified the officer behind the wheel of the cruiser as Officer Francky JN Louis, an eight-year veteran of the department.
The crash report states that Louis was traveling 25 miles per hour and failed to give the two cyclists the right of way when he turned left. The report also says the officer was experiencing glare just before the collision. The report does not explicitly say if the glare caused Louis to not see the cyclists.
Ian Pinkert, Nieves Leon's attorney, says he doesn't fully trust the police department to conduct its own investigation.
"In our experience, when there's a police officer involved, the police don't necessarily do a fair and thorough investigation. We might not trust the findings of the police investigation or the police report as fair and accurate," Pinkert says.
Other cyclists witnessed the crash, including Isabella Lundelberg, a resident of Key Biscayne.
Lundelberg tells New Times she and a group of riders were about 20 seconds behind Echeverria and Leon when the crash occurred. She believes Echeverria and Nieves Leon were going about 16 miles per hour based on her own bike's recorded speed and says the officer hit Echeverria head-on. She adds that cyclists are aware the intersection is dangerous and know to be alert even when they have the right of way.
"I was in shock," says Lundelberg, who stayed with Echeverria during the 35 minutes they waited for emergency vehicles to arrive. "It was very unfortunate and traumatic."
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The MDPD report states there was no reason to suspect alcohol or other drugs may have impaired Louis' driving; the department did not test him for those substances.
The report did not include Louis' contact information. New Times has requested the officer's driving record and disciplinary history.
"We hope that the police do a fair and complete investigation of this incident, but notwithstanding theirs, we're going to do our own investigation as to why this officer, in broad daylight, veered off the road into two cyclists," Pinkert says.
Echeverria's children have started an online fundraising effort to help cover his funeral costs. As of this morning, it is nearing its $10,000 goal.