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Pinecrest Officer Ready To Fight Recommendation To Be Fired

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 has learned a Pinecrest officer is fighting back after her Police Chief recommended that she be fired after she was apparently caught on camera failing to render aid after a horrific accident.

Thirty-year-old officer Ana Carrasco will appeal the recommendation from the Chief, according to John Rivera, the President of Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association.

"It's sad the city didn't look into this as deeply as it should have," said Rivera. Rivera, whose union is representing Carrasco, told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "There were many things about the investigation that were not brought to light, that were not discovered and our officer deserves due process."

"This is not a case Peter where they missed a little but this is a case where they missed a lot," said Rivera. "I think the investigation was done in haste, in part because of the media frenzy. Our information is nothing could have been done for the victims. We do not believe our member did anything wrong."

Rivera was speaking for Carrasco, who was not commenting because of the pending case. He could not divulge specific details because of advice from the P.B.A. attorney.

"Our concern is for the city of Pinecrest not to be embarrassed," he said. "So we are trying to work with them."

"There are going to be some questions about the complainant in this case and how he acted on the scene when he stopped to render aid. Everyone is making him out to be a hero," said Rivera.

Pinecrest Police Chief Samuel Ceballos recommended Tuesday the termination of Officer Ana Carrasco.

"The Village Manager will review evidence and hear testimony before making a final decision in regards to Police Chief Ceballos' recommendation," according to a statement from the Village of Pinecrest.

Carrasco has been placed on administrative leave with pay while awaiting the decision. She has ten days to file the appeal.

The Chief's decision was commended by prominent Coral Gables attorney Ervin Gonzalez, who is representing the victims' families in his lawsuit against the driver who hit them.

"I think it's unfortunate the police officer did not do her duty," said Gonzalez. "They are trained to save lives and they take the oath to save lives. It's a shame. She saw two people gurgling and literally taking their last breath and she didn't take action to save their lives. I think the police department did the right thing in recommending the termination of an officer who does not have her heart and soul in her job."

Gonzalez said "This is a very difficult job. Only individuals who are passionate and fully dedicated should serve. Failing to help save someone's life when they can is unforgiveable."

Gonzalez said CPR efforts would have not made a difference for either victim, but no one knew that at the time. While one officer acted heroically, Gonzalez said, the other shirked her duty as an officer and a human being.

Carrasco has been with Pinecrest Police since October of 2012.

Because she plans to appeal the Chief's recommendation, the village manager will hold a hearing and listen to testimony and review all the evidence before making a final decision.

The accident occurred October 16th, 2013 when a driver struck two University of Miami graduate students, Ying Chen and Hao Liu. They did not survive.

Off-duty Miami Police Sergeant Javier Ortiz happened to be in the area and came upon the scene immediately.

"I jumped out of my car, I have a defibrillator, and checked the vitals on both victims," said Ortiz. "I immediately started CPR on the female. It was just me. I had no one to work on the male and I was waiting for help to arrive."

When Carrasco arrived on the scene, dash cam video from her patrol car showed the officer standing with her hands in her pockets watching Ortiz try to help the stricken female student.

Ortiz said he begged her to help.

"I said it again and again and again," Ortiz said. "There were people, civilians, yelling at her to please do something and she did absolutely nothing."

In recorded statements, witnesses said Officer Carrasco did not help the victims.

When questioned as part of an internal affairs investigation, Carrasco reportedly said she gave Ortiz a pair of gloves when he asked for them, told bystanders to back away from the scene and tried to locate the vehicle that hit the victims which was stopped a short distance away.

A recording of Carrasco's statement says, "I actually made a visual assessment on the male facing down. I didn't see him breathing I didn't see his lungs or chest expanding or any signs of life."

Later she said, "Based on my training, education, experience I was concerned flipping the male victim over. I was concerned it could cause cervical or spinal injury and maybe kill him. I don't know if he's dead or not. I run back to my car to see if I have more gloves to see if I can search for any vital signs at that time rescue arrived."

She said she never checked vital signs because she didn't have another pair of gloves.

A thirty-two page investigative report by Pinecrest Police, obtained by CBS4 News, found Officer Carrasco failed to render aid at an accident involving serious injury.


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