MIAMI – Two women and two men were killed and another man was injured in a wrong way crash on Interstate 95 between Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Ives Dairy Road after a brief police pursuit early Wednesday.
Opa-locka police officers began pursuing a black Chevy Suburban after an officer observed suspicious activity at Northwest 22nd Avenue and 144th Street, police say. Police identified the driver as Willie Dumel later Wednesday afternoon.
Dumel, 25, then drove through Miami Gardens and onto northbound I-95, police say. 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 out of the window. 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 going 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. Police initially identified the suspect as Paolo Lafrance. After Local 10 spoke to Paolo Lafrance at his home and learned his identity had been stolen, police said the suspect's real name is Willie Dumel.
Chiverton said the suspect had several prior arrests. He was charged initially with fleeing or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer in a marked vehicle. Other charges are pending.
The identities of those killed in the crash have not yet been released. Joe Sanchez with the Florida Highway Patrol said they were from out of state.
The crash shut down all southbound lanes between Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Ives Dairy Road for several hours. The interstate reopened about 9 a.m.
"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.