6 Miami cops on desk duty for a year after deadly car chase are cleared, back on street

·4 min read

Almost a year after six Miami police officers were taken off the street as investigators determined whether they were responsible for a horrific car crash in Allapattah that took a young woman’s life, the officers have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Late last month, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office issued a two-page memo clearing the six officers and laying blame for the woman’s death solely on the driver of a vehicle that investigators say ran a red light and T-boned the Subaru carrying 23-year-old Ciarah Ramirez.

In the memo written on Feb. 23, Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Laura Adams wrote that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the officers involved in the incident caused Ramirez’s death.

“Rather,” wrote Adams, “all evidence available indicates that Ms. Ramirez was killed due to the decision of the defendant Dalton McKenzie to drive at a high rate of speed and go through a red light...”

Five of the six officers who had been on desk duty for almost a year returned to their jobs on the Allapattah Problem Solving team, said Miami police spokesman Orlando Rodriguez. A sixth is on military leave.

The officers were cleared less than a week after McKenzie, 21, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that was signed off on by Ramirez’s husband, Robert Hernandez. Hernandez was driving the Subaru the night his wife lost her life. McKenzie was driving the Mustang that rammed into them at the Allapattah intersection.

McKenzie was sentenced to six years in prison, followed by two years of community control and another six years of probation. His license has been permanently revoked, and each year he has to contribute $100 to a Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund in memory of Ramirez.

The clearance of the six Miami police officers was first reported by Miami New Times earlier this week.

Ramirez’s death sent her family into a tailspin. Tens of thousands of dollars collected from a GoFundMe site helped transport her body back to her native Venezuela. A makeshift memorial near the crash site filled quickly with teddy bears, balloons, stuffed animals and pictures.

A cousin, Andrea Ramirez, said the family couldn’t come to terms with “how it happened. Our hopes are with the police and that they find them and see exactly what happened and make sure they pay for it,” she said.

According to police and witness accounts, Ramirez lost her life the night of May 5, 2020, when the stolen Mustang McKenzie was driving ran a red light at the corner of Northwest 36th Street and Miami Avenue and T-boned the Subaru. Ramirez was in the back seat. The crash was so violent that she was ejected from the car. Her husband and a friend survived, but were badly injured.

McKenzie was linked to the accident after detectives found his DNA on an airbag that deployed in the driver’s seat of the Mustang, which police said had been stolen from the Little Haiti neighborhood. Video surveillance from a store on the street corner showed the crash. And police said McKenzie and another man ran from the scene after the collision.

Not long after the crash, five officers and the unit’s sergeant were reassigned from street patrol to desk duty. Though video from a nearby store didn’t show police chasing the Mustang, Miami police confirmed that at some point before the crash police were tailing the stolen sports car.

Department policy only permits police to chase a vehicle at a high rate of speed if a violent crime has been committed and if the public is not endangered.

Adams, in a separate close-out memo regarding McKenzie’s plea deal, said the defendant apologized to the victim’s family during a Zoom court hearing.

As for the six officers, Adams said there is no visual evidence showing they were chasing the Mustang before or during the crash. The close-out memo does not mention any radio transmissions.

“Thus, there is no basis to file criminal traffic charges against any officer who may have been pursuing the Mustang prior to this fatal collision,” she wrote.