Mayor issues statement on officer pursuit, fatal wrong way crash

4 killed in wrong way crash on I-95; Driver charged

Published On: Apr 09 2013 04:42:35 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 05 2013 09:56:29 AM EDT
I95 crash 2
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. -

The mayor of Opa-locka said "there will be no cover up" regarding an investigation as to why a city police officer pursued a man who investigators say was driving the wrong way on Interstate 95 when he hit a minivan, killing the four people inside.

"As a mother, a sister and a wife, my heart goes out to the family of those killed in that accident," Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor said in a statement Thursday. "We will do a thorough investigation on our end. No stone will be left unturned. There will be no cover up. We will get to the bottom of this."

Late Wednesday, FHP identified the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban involved in the Wednesday morning crash as 25-year-old Willie Dumel.

But Opa-locka police identified him as 24-year-old Paolo Lafrance.

A man claiming to be Lafrance told Local 10 his identity was stolen four years ago.

According to Opa-locka police, an officer observed suspicious activity and began pursuing Dumel at Northwest 22nd Avenue and 144th Street.

Dumel then drove through Miami Gardens and onto northbound I-95, police said. He exited at Ives Dairy Road, where a gun was thrown out of the vehicle.

"The subject threw a .55 on I-95 and Ives Dairy. Oh my God," said an officer, according to a recording of police communications during the pursuit.

Officers recovered the weapon on the northbound exit of Ives Dairy Road.

Dumel then got back onto I-95 at Ives Dairy Road, but was driving northbound in the southbound lanes, police said. Police stopped their pursuit at that time, according to Opa-locka Assistant City Manager David Chiverton.

"My understanding is the chase was broken off at the exit ramp of Ives Dairy Road," said Chiverton.

But a recording of police communications during the pursuit showed an officer may have still been pursing Dumel when he entered I-95 the wrong way.

"This guy is all over the road. Now he's going against traffic on I-95. We're going northbound in the southbound lanes," said an officer, according to the recording.

Jeff Kopelman said he was driving southbound when he saw headlights coming towards him.

"Two seconds after I realized that, I mean two seconds, four seconds, oh, right into the car in front of me," said Kopelman. "What looked like one, big ball and next thing I know, I see one of the automobiles go up in the air, come down, [and] turn over and over."

Moments later, Dumel crashed head-on with a minivan, killing the four people inside. The officer reported having him at gunpoint after the crash.

Dumel was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with two broken legs. He underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon.

Dumel was initially charged with fleeing or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer in a marked vehicle. Other charges are pending.

On Thursday afternoon, Joe Sanchez with the Florida Highway Patrol released the identities of those involved in the crash.

The crash shut down all southbound lanes between Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Ives Dairy Road for several hours.

"Let me just say that I've been doing this for about 25 years and this is one of the worst accidents that I have seen," said Sanchez.

The officer who began the pursuit was put on administrative leave.