Police release audio of detective questioning Miami Lakes mayor after crash

Michael Pizzi says he was tired after long work day, crashed after avoiding animal in road

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – Newly released police audio gives more details about a crash last month involving reinstated Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi.

Pizzi crashed his car the night of June 15 in the area of Northwest 82nd Avenue just south of Commerce Way after he claimed to have been avoiding an animal in the road.

Police arrived at the scene after receiving calls about a possible hit-and-run crash and said Pizzi was not there when officers first arrived.

He showed up later and told detectives that he "had a bunch of meetings with people," worked a 20-hour day and was "exhausted."

"I could barely stay awake. I was driving home. ... I got a couple of text messages, a couple of phone calls," Pizzi told a detective. "All of a sudden I looked. Something cut in front of me. It might have been a cat. It might have been a dog. Next thing I know, I swerve to the right (and) I hit a tree."

LISTEN: Full interview

Pizzi told police that he banged his head and left to go to a friend's house, where he asked that person to call a tow truck for him.

"You said you were on the phone when you crashed?" a Miami-Dade police detective asked.

"What happened was, unfortunately, my phone never stops ringing," Pizzi said. "And I got a number of phone calls, a number of text messages. I might have been a little distracted. There's a lot of stray dogs and cats here, you know. Something cut in front of me. I'm not sure what it was."

Pizzi told the detective that he had not been drinking and did not take any medication before the crash.

"Like any other human being, I can have a traffic accident," Pizzi said in a statement a day after the crash. "Thank God no one was injured and there were no other cars involved and the only property damage was to my car and a tree, which I hope it survives. I am happy that all of the police officers found me to be cooperative and respectful. I am grateful that I was not injured and want to thank those who have reach out to me to express their concerns."

Pizzi faced Miami Lakes residents Wednesday after Councilman Caesar Mestre called a special meeting, where he opened the floor to a packed house.

"You have to follow the rules," Mestre said to Pizzi. "If you don't follow the rules, I'm sorry, I'm going to call you out."

The crowd was divided nearly in half. One part saw no merit in the public hearing, while the other half raised suspicions and concerns.

One woman questioned whether city officials receive preferential treatment from police. Another man questioned whether the officers are being influenced in any way.

"I'm not going to permit anybody to come up here and slander our town police officers," Pizzi said.

Pizzi later removed himself from the meeting.

"I have to recuse myself because if I stay here and vote or participate, there is some conflict of interest based upon the nature of the meeting called," Pizzi said.

Despite advice from the town attorney, Pizzi couldn't help but get the last word.

"I have absolutely nothing to hide," he said.

Pizzi recently made headlines for his fight to get his job back as mayor of Miami Lakes.

Gov. Rick Scott suspended Pizzi after he was charged with bribery and extortion in August 2013. Pizzi was acquitted last year, and his attorneys argued that he should have been reinstated to his position, citing state statute.

Ultimately, the town council voted to ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the crash.

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