WSVN — He was in a car accident with a Florida Highway patrolman. He knew that meant the police would arrive quickly and they did, but everything after that stunned him, leaving him wondering if it’s legal for the Highway Patrol to do what they did. And that’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
If you have trouble remembering people’s names, Francis François has an easy one for you.
Francis François: "It’s translated actually Francis Francis. I struggled as a child growing up with the same name."
Francis is fine with his name now. It’s an accident involving a Florida Highway patrolman that he is struggling with.
Francis was on Northwest Second Avenue, ready to make a left-hand turn onto 187th Street. He stopped to let traffic clear.
Francis François: "And I just saw a truck coming. It wasn’t a hard hit, but he hit me hard enough to cause damage to my car."
A plainclothes Florida Highway patrolman was driving an unmarked black SUV with a female trooper in the car. They all got out to look at the damage to the SUV and Francis’ gray Infiniti.
Francis François: "He said, ‘I apologize for running into your car. I’m a law enforcement officer,’ pulled out his badge. ‘I’m going to make a call and we’ll take care of this’"
Francis thought that meant the police would be there quickly, and a few minutes later a Miami Gardens officer did pull up.
Francis François: "She said she’ll take the report. He said, ‘FHP is coming,’ Florida Highway Patrol. He talked to her and she pulled off."
Francis says the trooper told him he was Sgt. Mark Shoaff, that they didn’t need Miami Gardens, that the Florida Highway Patrol would handle the accident. As they waited, Francis took pictures that he says showed the troopers black SUV had run into the side of his gray Infiniti.
Then Francis said the trooper told him they needed to move their cars off the street to a nearby parking lot.
Francis François: "Maybe I was naive."
Three Florida Highway Patrol vehicles then arrived. One was a lieutenant who began to investigate.
Francis François: "He didn’t ask to look at my pictures, he looked at the officer’s pictures. And he’s the one that determined there was no way to determine who was at fault."
Francis says if they had left the vehicles, it would have been clear who hit who. Francis says the trooper apologized for hitting him, but then told the investigator Francis caused the accident.
Francis François: "I kind of went off. I can’t believe this. You just apologized to me. You hit my car! ‘I’m sorry, buddy.’"
Needless to say, Francis was stunned.
Francis François: "It’s the entire law enforcement community covering up for each other."
Howard, you have heard Francis’ story and looked at the pictures. Legally, was this handled properly by the Florida Highway Patrol?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, the Florida Highway Patrol can investigate their own accidents, but sending Miami Gardens Police away looks like a conflict of interest. And clearing the accident scene before the investigator arrived looks suspicious because that makes it difficult for someone else to determine who was at fault."
I then waited 60 days for the Florida Highway Patrol to release the crash report. The lieutenant who wrote it said, "FHP’s Sgt. Mark Shoaff said Francis struck his vehicle. Francis said the trooper struck his vehicle." The investigator added, "Both vehicles were removed from the roadway prior to my arrival." The lieutenant concluded, "Due to conflicting statements, neither driver was charged in the crash."
I had several questions for FHP regarding the accident. The Miami office said the answers would have to come from Tallahassee. No one at Highway Patrol headquarters would answer the questions.
Francis François: "How could I have hit him?"
Needless to say, Francis is disappointed, but he says he is no longer surprised.
Francis François: "They are here to protect and serve, but it seems they are here to protect and serve themselves."
Patrick Fraser: "Some good news for Francis; his insurance company is going after the Highway Patrol to get their money and his deductible back. Why wouldn’t the Highway Patrol answer any questions I had to clear things up? I don’t know, but that makes Francis even more suspicious."
A fender bender crushing your peace of mind? Wanna see your problem hit the highway? Contact us. We’ll troop in to help, and our report will hopefully clear things up. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
UPDATE: After our story aired, the Florida Highway Patrol notified us that they had an updated crash report that said the officer "failed to yield right of way," but he is not being charged. FHP says because he was on official duty, he was given a counseling letter, per FHP policy.