By Carli Teproff, Charles Rabin, Rebecca Ellis And David Ovalle Miami Herald
MIAMI — After a Florida Highway Patrol trooper was rear-ended during a traffic stop in April, she spent several minutes in a cat-and-mouse chase of the suspect down Florida’s Turnpike, weaving in and out of traffic and driving on shoulders and grass before forcing the car into a guardrail, dashcam video released by the FHP shows.
The 18-minute video, released Wednesday, begins with the trooper’s car being bumped and ends with the suspect being pressed against the passenger side of his car as four officers come to FHP trooper Vanessa Franceschi’s aid.
Raumel Quintero, 20, was charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, fleeing and eluding, leaving the scene of a crash and intentionally hitting the trooper’s car. Franeschi, who was hospitalized with a back injury and initially lauded by the department for her “quick and courageous actions,” remains on paid injury leave.
But her actions have subsequently come under fire by her bosses.
Three weeks after the chase, she had to undergo a counseling/training session about her actions.
A memo written after her session scolded her for several improper driving tactics, including driving the wrong way into traffic and passing traffic at a high rate of speed without activating her siren.
“This is to document that we discussed best practices and safety awareness concerns during your pursuit, and ensured that you understand the requirements of the policy, procedures and training regarding pursuits,” Lt. Gene Phillipson wrote in the memo. “Future violations of this nature may result in disciplinary action.”
Bill Smith, the president of the FHP chapter of Florida’s Police Benevolent Association, called the memo “micro-managing.”
He says the issues listed were too minute to warrant discipline. “We’re getting to a point now where you’re going to hamper or hinder a trooper’s ability for them to effectively do their job,” says Smith. He believes Franceschi conducted “the most perfect chase you can have unless the guy pulls over and gives it up.”
The rear-ending of Franceschi’s vehicle and the capture of Quintero took about six minutes, the video shows. It begins with the trooper heading back to her vehicle after a traffic stop on the northbound side of the turnpike near Northwest 41st Street.
A few seconds later, after her vehicle has been struck, Franceschi says “Oh s—.” Then she gathers her thoughts and gives chase as the white Honda Civic driven by Quintero passes her on the left.
“I just got hit. The guy is fleeing right now,” the trooper says into her radio. As the two cars head north, Quintero leads her in and out of traffic and along the road’s shoulder.
“He hit me hard from the rear. He hit me hard and took off,” she says.
The Honda exits at Northwest 21st Street, passing cars on the grass on the left side. Then it turns left onto 21st Street and gets back onto the Turnpike, cutting off traffic, heading south. After a few more minutes of weaving, Quintero veers across lanes toward the median with the officer still in pursuit.
As the Honda nears the center guardrail, the officer sees her chance and nudges the car into the guardrail, a maneuver approved by the FHP to stop a dangerous fleeing suspect. The Honda becomes inoperative just after the six-minute mark near Tamiami Trail.
Franceschi gets out of her car with her gun drawn and points it at the driver over the driver’s side door. Then she goes around to the passenger side as two more officers show up. Two more show up and the five officers and the driver are out of sight for a while.
Then they all emerge, with Quintero handcuffed and standing against the passenger side of the Honda, his face looking directly toward the camera. A few seconds later they all exit the screen.
Quintero, who has had previous run-ins with the law including resisting arrest without violence, was still in Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center as of Wednesday. He is being held on a $17,500 bond, records show.
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