Opa-locka Cop Involved in Wrong-Way Crash Was Once Fired for Drag Racing on I-95

The horrifying wrong-way crash that killed four people and snarled traffic for hours on I-95 Wednesday is beginning to look worse and worse for the troubled Opa-locka Police Department. Though city officials have denied that Cpl. Sergio Perez pursued a suspect well out of his jurisdiction onto the highway in the wrong direction, newly released audiotapes tell a different story.

Even worse, it turns out Perez had been fired from his previous police gig for crashing while drag-racing at more than 110 mph on I-95.

One thing that's indisputable: The whole grisly scene happened because Perez chased a driver named Willie Dumel who'd made an illegal right turn. (That's despite the fact that Opa-locka's rules allow pursuits only in the case of serious felonies.)

At some point, Dumel fled north in I-95's southbound lanes. That's where his vehicle struck a minivan carrying 31-year-old Navy officer Albertson Almase and his three passengers -- Dennis Ortiz, 33; Lily Azarcon, 26; and his newlywed sister, 26-year-old Kristina Almase. All died on the spot.

Perez's superiors in Opa-locka told the media yesterday that he'd stopped his pursuit when the suspect entered the highway the wrong way. Bu new tapes obtained by the Miami Herald seem to show Perez following Dumel right onto I-95 and then screaming, "Oh my God!" when the suspect hit the minivan.

The cop's record is not going to help Opa-locka's case that he was operating within procedures on Wednesday.

Perez, who failed multiple tests to get a Miami Beach police job (possibly for impersonating a cop, says Random Pixels, which also unearthed embarrassing Facebook photos), was fired from Miami Shores' force in 2006 after wrecking his car while drag racing at more than 110 mph on I-95, the Herald reports.

Opa-locka hired him a year later anyway. Since joining the force, he's been accused of putting a gun in a juvenile's mouth, beating up a sexual assault suspect, and punching a woman in the face so hard during an arrest that she needed facial reconstruction surgery and metal plates inserted into her head, the Herald writes.

Perez is on administrative leave while the crash is under review. Dumel, who survived the wreck with two broken legs, faces four counts of vehicular homicide.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink