Opa-locka police corporal caught on camera failing to stop at scene of fatal crash
Kemar Francis, 22, killed in 2017 crash in northwest Miami-Dade
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – Local 10 News has obtained never publicly seen video of what happened the night of a fiery fatal crash in northwest Miami-Dade County in 2017.
In the video, Opa-locka police Cpl. Wuihudson Francois was seen driving away from the crash seconds after impact without rendering any help.
Kemar Francis, 22, was killed when his car was T-boned and flipped.
Francis' Buick burst into flames a minute after his car came to rest in front of a transmission shop on Northwest 103rd Street.
"My brother was in the car burning alive," Raymond Francis, Kemar Francis' brother, who is a firefighter in North Carolina, told Local 10 News. "This all could have been avoided."
Authorities said a silver Acura driven by Lanard Gilbert, 21, ran the light at Northwest 103rd Street and 22nd Avenue and slammed into Kemar Francis' car.
Gilbert was apparently trying to get away from Francois, who was pursuing him before the crash occurred.
Francois had spotted Gilbert driving erratically in Opa-locka and followed him out of the city, which is against Opa-locka Police Department rules.
"After the crash, this officer did the exact opposite of what he should have done," attorney Ben Murphey, who has been hired by Kemar Francis' family, told Local 10 News.
Surveillance video from a transmission shop shows Francois' Opa-locka police SUV making a left turn onto Northwest 103rd Street 18 seconds after the massive impact.
He is seen in the video driving away from the crash, like nothing happened.
"It's impossible not for him to see that accident. Why did he turn left?" Raymond Francis said.
"Civilians knew something was wrong. They stopped to help and this police officer didn't? You can't not know," Murphey added.
Kemar Francis' brother said the officer should have stopped and pulled his brother out before the fire erupted.
"Kemar had smoke in his lungs, so we know he was alive when that car was burning," Murphey said. "The police vehicles are equipped with a fire extinguisher."
An eyewitness told a Miami-Dade police officer who arrived at the scene that she was shocked the officer didn't stop.
"We went over there to try to help, but the police didn't try to come over here and help," the witness said.
Video shows the Opa-locka police officer returning to the scene of the crash several minutes later.
Francois told an Internal Affairs investigator that another driver flagged him down to tell him about the crash, but in a deposition he told a different story.
In the deposition, Francois said he was on his way back to the city when the crash call was dispatched out, so he turned around.
Miami-Dade police officers who showed up at the scene raised an eyebrow when Opa-locka officers wanted to leave the scene.
On bodycam video obtained by Local 10 News, a Miami-Dade police officer says, "Opa-locka is about to clear. They ain't tryin' to get none of this."
"Yeah. They started it. They the one chasing him," another Miami-Dade police officer said.
"According to them, they ain't. You know how that go," the first officer responded.
According to the results of an Internal Affairs investigation, Francois violated the Opa-locka Police Department's chase policy.
The policy states officers cannot pursue traffic violators, misdemeanor subjects or people committing property crime under any circumstance.
Franciois was 32 blocks outside his jurisdiction. He did not call his superior, had no emergency lights on, had no sirens on and did not tell Miami-Dade police he was following a possible stolen car that entered their jurisdiction.
Opa-locka police Chief James Dobson first recommended that Francois be terminated.
The chief then changed his recommendation to a demotion.
There is no explanation in Francois' personnel file as to why the chief changed his position.
Dobson won't comment due to pending litigation.
Francois is now part of the Opa-locka Police Department's traffic unit.
He refused to talk to Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier, who confronted him outside the Opa-Locka Police Department.
"I think he fled because he realized that he had caused a horrific crash," Murphey said.
"I would ask him, 'Why did he leave the scene? Was your job more important than my brother's life?'" Raymond Francis said.
Francois told an I.A. investigator that he was not chasing the car and never heard or saw the crash.
He claimed he made the left turn because he thought the driver of the Acura did the same.
"While the loss of life in this case is unfortunate, we believe that Officer Francois acted appropriately based on the totality of events, and expect that he will be exonerated of any and all wrongdoing after all of the evidence is heard," Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association attorney Anastasios Kamoutsas said.
Because of pending litigation, no one from the city of Opa-locka would talk to Local 10 News about the incident.
"Their position is that we see no liability on our part whatsoever," Murphey said.
This is not the first time Francois has been the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation.
In 2001, Francois failed to property handcuff and secure an arrestee in the back of his patrol car.
That suspect was able to loosen his handcuffs, get into the front seat of Francois' patrol car and take off.
The suspect led police on a high-speed chase until he crashed and the patrol car burst into flames.
As for the incident in which Kemar Francis was killed, Gilbert was charged with eluding police, vehicular homicide and possession of a firearm.
His trial is still pending.
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