OPA-LOCKA, Fla. - Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder, who was recently named in a FBI probe, was killed early Tuesday in a car crash at Opa-locka Executive Airport in an apparent suicide, detectives told Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Pinder was scheduled to turn himself in Wednesday to the Miami-Dade state attorney's office on charges of bribery and unlawful compensation.
She said the charges were related to bribes he solicited to help a local businessman, who had been acting as an informant, to assist in obtaining approval from the city to operate a solid waste transfer station.
"No such charges or offenses are worth taking one's life," Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "This is a tragedy for Terrence Pinder's family and friends, a tragedy for the city Of Opa-locka and a tragedy for the people of Opa-locka that circumstances surrounding the city's operation have gone this far. I send my deepest condolences to his entire family."
According to an arrest affidavit, Pinder's former employer-turned confidential informant wired about $7,000 to the commissioner to seal him a lucrative garbage disposal contract. Pinder was recorded talking about how to "start feeding the machine" to "send some more Christmas presents" and "needing some love."
Detectives said Pinder crashed his car into a tree on the south side of the airport while driving somewhere between 70 to 100 mph.
Authorities said he was heading south on the roadway in his city-issued Chevrolet Tahoe when he veered off the side of the road into a field and then crashed into the tree.
"Our thought s and hearts go out to the loss of our great colleague, friend and brother, Commissioner Terence K. Pinder," Mayor Myra L. Taylor said in a statement. "The entire Opa-locka community joins in sending our condolences to the Pinder family."
Pinder was among other city officials who were supposed to attend a meeting at City Hall about the city's financial woes Tuesday.
"I had talked to him last night about the special meeting today," Opa-locka resident, Alvin Burke, said. "That's why this is shocking to me. He didn't seemed stressed or anything last night when I talked to him."
"I wish someone would tell all the citizens of Opa-locka what's really going on out here, because this is sad today," Natasha Ervin said.
Pinder's death comes less than a week after Opa-locka City Manager David Chiverton sent a letter to city officials, saying that he is taking a "temporary leave of absence for medical reasons."
Chiverton is also under federal investigation for allegations of pay-to-play bribes, as well as the mayor and her husband, who are under investigation for an alleged kickback scheme related to a city sewer project.
The couple is accused of taking $150,000 from the city to support their own finances.
Former City Manager Steve Shiver, who Pinder recruited, was fired shortly after revealing the city's disastrous financial situation.
"His heart was in the right place," Shiver said. "I think unfortunately, he got caught up with a group of bandits running City Hall."
Despite the charges and federal investigation, Pinder had many supporters who were impressed with his public service.
"He has his ways of doing things, but the outlook where the children are concerned, it was something positive," Chris Roberts from the Opa-locka Boosters said. "Now, as far as the politics on the dais -- that's another story."
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