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(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks



CHICAGO (JGL) — Circuit Court Judge Antonio Arzola of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida had given the Chief of Police and

the City of Opa-Locka in Miami-Dade County until Oct. 20 to file their answer to his denial of their motion to dismiss with prejudice in connection with the wrongful death suit brought against the the City of Opa-Locka and the Chief of Police and among others by the heirs of two Filipinos and two Filipino Americans who died in a car crash in Miami-Dade County four years ago. 

In his order on Sept. 20, 2017, Judge Arzola said, “This cause having come to be heard on Sept. 20, 2017 on Defendant’s Motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amended complaint and the Court having considered the record, having heard counsel and being otherwise advised in the premises, it is hereby ordered and adjudged that said Motion be and the same hereby denied for the reasons stated on the record.

“Defendants (Cheryl Cason, Jeffrey Key and Kelvin Baker) shall file an answer within 30 days.” 

Cason and Key are the Chiefs of Police of Opa-Locka while Baker is the City Administrator of Opa-Locka. Thru their lawyer, E. Bruce Johnson, they filed an appeal to Judge Arzola's order to the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami, Florida. 

The order was issued on the case filed by Caesar V. Almase and Rhodalyn Garcia as co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Kristina Almase, deceased, one of the plaintiffs, who died in the fiery car crash that claimed the lives of another Filipino American and two Filipinos. Mr. Almase and Ms. Garcia are represented by lawyer, Edward R. Blumberg. 


The 12-count Fourth Amended Complaint filed by plaintiff Constantine Azarcon as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lily Marie Azarcon demanded damages and jury trial against Defendants Sergio Perez, City of Opa-Locka, Kelvin Baker, Jr. (administrator of Opa-Locka), Opa-Locka Police Chiefs Cheryl Cason and Jeffrey Key; Rodney Barlatier, Willie Dumel, DTG Operations, Inc. f/k/a (formerly known as) Dollar-Rent-A-Car Systems, Inc. d/b/a (doing business as) Thrifty Car Rental, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, Inc., and Rental Car Finance Corp. f/k/a Thrifty Car Rental Finance Corporation. 

In Count I, it charged Sergio Perez with bad faith and willful and wanton conduct when on duty as a police officer on or about April 3, 2013, he saw a 2013 Chevrolet Suburban being driven by Defendant Willie Dumel, who made an “improper right-hand turn at or near NW 22nd Avenue and 143rd Street. Under the circumstances, Perez could not have reasonably believed” that its driver Willie Dumel had committed a forcible felony as defined in Florida Statute 776.08.” He chased and pursued Dumel “recklessly and without regard to the safety of the motor public” at dangerously high speeds the vehicle, leaving the city limits of Opa-Locka. 

Dumel’s vehicle headed north into the southbound lanes of I-95 at or near Ives Dairy Road in Miami-Dade County, traveling at a high speed going the wrong way, crashing into a motor vehicle in which Lily Marie Azarcon was a passenger, resulting in death. 

Aside from Azarcon, 26, a Filipino single mother, the others who were killed in the car collision were another Filipino, Dennis Ryan Rinon Ortiz, 33, international sales director of Alveo Land, a subsidiary of Philippine-based Ayala Land Company; Azarcon is Ortiz’s Alveo subordinate associate; both of the Philippines; Katelyn Rhia Hernandez; Azarcon’s friend, Albertson Anthony Almase, 31, a Petty Officer 2nd Class of the U.S. Navy, residing in Yokosuka, Japan and owning assets in Florida; and Almase’s little sister, Kristina Almase, 26, a former resident of Cebu in the Philippines, who just relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida prior to the accident.  

In Count IX of the Fourth Amended Complaint filed by Brothman Nusbaum Ibrahim Attorneys for Plaintiff Constantine Azarcon as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lily Marie Azarcon, it charged Opa-Locka Chief of Police Jeffrey Key with “bad faith, and willful and wanton and reckless hiring and retention” of police officer Sergio Perez. 

Saying that “this is an action for damages in excess of $15,000,” the Brotman Nusbaum Ibrahim Attorneys claimed that Defendant Jeffrey Key, “at all pertinent times, was ostensibly or actually employed as a police chief for the illegal enterprise known as the City of Opa-Locka in Miami-Dade County. 


“…. (A)s a police chief of the illegal enterprise known as the City of Opa-Locka police department, (Jeffrey Key) had the immediate direction and control of its police department, and had the power and authority necessary to hire and retain and supervise its police officers. 

“…. Opa-Locka ceased operating as a legitimate and lawful municipal corporation and instead disintegrated into a lawless and criminal enterprise where its officials engaged in illegal activities for their own personal gain and pleasures. 

“For example, … Jeffrey Key sought out police officers such as Defendant Sergio Perez with known reckless or criminal backgrounds in furtherance of the culture of reckless and criminal behavior that came to be the CITY OF OPA-LOCKA. 

“(The following commissioners and those in authority who have pled criminally guilty for turning the CITY OF OPA-LOCKA into a criminal enterprise include former city manager David Chiverton, former commissioner Luis Santiago, former police captain Arthur Balom, and former assistant public works director Gregory Harris. The FBI’s criminal investigation is ongoing.) 

“The City of Opa-Locka through the acts of Defendant Jeffrey Key and those in authority, became perverted and lost its municipal corporate character and descended into a morass of dangerous and illegal activity, including unlawful and ultra-dangerous high speed police chases, all the while ignoring its rules, regulations and purposes to ensure the public health, welfare and safety.” 


It said Defendant Police Chief Jeffrey Key, “at all times material hereto, deliberately, intentionally, recklessly, in bad faith, and in a manner exhibiting willful and wanton behavior hired and retained Sergio Perez when he knew or should have known that Sergio Perez was incompetent and/or unqualified and/or unsuitable and/or unable to safely and knowledgeably perform the duties of a police officer, example of which are: 

a.     Sergio Perez was a known reckless driver, having been charged with reckless driving in excess of 106 miles per hour on I-95 in the City of Miami while engaging in drag racing with another vehicle. 

b.     Sergio Perez was deemed unfit to be a police officer for the City of Miami Shores Department, who fired him. 

c.     While serving as a police officer for the City of Opa-Locka, Sergio Perez violated police procedures on multiple occasions, including the battery of a subject. 

d.     Sergio Perez was unable to manage his personal financial affairs, including an IRS lien, and overdrawn bank accounts. 

e.     Sergio Perez took City of Opa-Locka police vehicles without permission on personal business outside city limits of the City of Opa-Locka. 

f.      Sergio Perez was disciplined for conduct unbecoming a police officer and insubordination. 

g.     Sergio Perez was found guilty of inattention to duty for failing to respond to his police radio. 

h.     Sergio Perez was disciplined for failure to attend multiple court hearings. 


The same complaint added Defendant Jeffrey Key “intentionally, recklessly, and deliberately, in bad faith, and in a manner exhibiting willful and wanton behavior, hired and retained Sergio Perez so that he would violate police procedures and participate in the City of Opa-Locka’s ultra-hazardous culture of high speed police pursuits in violation of all safety standards and protocols, including driving his motor vehicle outside the city of Opa-Locka’s geographical boundaries.” 

Sergio Perez acted in bad faith and exhibited a conduct at all times that was blatant as to constitute a complete and utter disregard for human life, human rights, and the safety or property of another and such conduct would have resulted in injury with such knowledge, disregarded the foreseeable injurious consequences to other occupants of motor vehicles in the vicinity of Defendant Sergio Perez’ actions including, but not limited to the decedent, Lily Marie Azarcon. 

In its answer and defenses to the Fourth Amended Complaint filed on Oct. 6, the Defendant City of Opa-Locka said allegations within Count 1 (4-10), Count IV (32-46), Count V (47-63), Count VI (63-77), Count VII (78-93), Count VIII (94-108), Count IX (109-124), Count X (125-132), Count XI (133-138), Count XII (139-147) are asserted against other defendants and therefore no response from the CITY is required. 

Allegations against the City are denied. 

It added “this Court lacks jurisdiction over these claims at the time of the filing of this Answer as they are pending before the Third District Court of Appeals.” (Contact reporter)