WSVN — The video seems clear: A police car runs a red light and hits a woman. The response from the officer and the City of Miami attorney? It’s the woman’s fault. Investigative reporter Patrick Fraser has the video in a story we call "Policing the Police."
It was 6 in the morning when Ana Huerta headed to work driving down 22nd Avenue, crossing Flagler Street.
Ana Huerta (translation of): "I felt the hit, and that was it."
Ana had been in an accident with Miami Police Officer Leonard Linardos. He is blaming Ana. Ana is blaming him.
Ana Huerta (translation of): "The officer was at fault for the accident because he ran the red light. I had the green light and he ran the red."
It was the officer’s word against Ana’s word. In most cases, that would be the end of the story. The officers is believed, and Ana is out of luck.
Except, in this case, there was video from a traffic light camera. The patrol car is seen crossing 22nd Avenue and then being hit by Ana.
The light facing the officer is red as he rolls through the intersection. The lights on 22nd where Ana is driving are green as she goes through the intersection.
Ana Huerta (translation of): "No, he didn’t have his emergency lights on. There is a video that shows I had the green light and he ran the red."
Ana was injured in the 2013 accident, and for two and a half years, the medical bills have piled up.
Ana Huerta (translation of): "I have more than $40,000 in medical expenses, and I can’t pay it."
When the City of Miami refused to admit their officer was to blame, Ana hired attorneys John Lukacs and Todd Rosen.
Todd Rosen: "I’ve been an accident attorney for 15 years now. The longer you do it, the more you see things that still surprise you, actually, like this."
John Lukacs: "Like this case."
With the video, the case seemed clear. The officer who investigated the accident didn’t charge Linardos for the wreck, but wrote that "Officer Linardos ran the red traffic light."
When we looked into the officer’s personnel file, we discovered Linardos was reprimanded twice before by Miami Police for causing an accident while driving a police car.
In the accident with Ana, once again his bosses reprimanded Linardos for "carelessness or negligence." And, because it was a preventable crash, he lost his take-home police car for two months.
Officer Linardos signed his name, agreed with the facts as stated and the recommended penalty, and then went back to court with the city’s attorneys to fight Ana.
Todd Rosen: "Not only [did they] just deny they are at fault, but [that] it’s her fault. ‘She’s responsible for her injuries. She is the reason why she has $40,000 in medical bills.’ That’s their response."
The city’s attorneys claim Ana is responsible for her injuries because she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. In a sworn statement, Linardos blamed Ana for the accident, saying she "failed to exercise reasonable and ordinary care and caution in order to avoid the alleged accident," adding, "The injuries were caused by her own negligence."
A ridiculous stall tactic, Lukacs believes.
John Lukacs: "Do you think the city has done anything to make this right for Mrs. Huerta? They haven’t. They’ve done the polar opposite. They’ve blamed her for the accident and her injuries."
Because of the lawsuit, neither the officer nor the city’s attorney could talk to us. But Ana’s attorneys are ready to go to court, armed with the video.
Todd Rosen: "In this case, I’m sure it’s costing them a lot of money to defend it."
Ana won’t give up because, she says, the city should pay her medical bills. And, she says, because of the way the officer treated her after he smashed into her car.
Ana Huerta (translation of): "He didn’t say anything, just got his stuff and didn’t even apologize. Nothing."
The video, the accident and Ana, hoping after two and a half years, the city admits their officer was to blame for this. I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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