Memorial for victims of West Miami-Dade crash vandalized for 2nd time; teen suspect to be tried as adult

WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Authorities are investigating after a memorial for the four victims of a New Year’s Day crash in West Miami-Dade was torn down for a second time in less than a month.

The act of vandalism happened as the 16-year-old driver charged in the crash learned he will be tried as an adult.

Cellphone video captured someone using a pink bat to bash photos, candles and mementos at the roadside memorial, located in the area of West Flagler Street and Northwest 79th Avenue.

Investigators said this is the second time the memorial has been defaced since the Jan. 1 crash that claimed the lives of 21-year-old Yuhlia Barzaga, 22-year-old Christian Mohip, 21-year-old Andres Zacarias and 21-year-old Jenser Salazar.

Monday evening, 7News cameras captured loved ones as they picked up the pieces and rebuilt the memorial for a second time.

“I couldn’t believe it when it happened the first time,” said Andres Medina, Barzaga’s father.

Family members said they just want to be left alone to grieve in peace.

“It’s somebody with no heart, somebody with no soul,” said Medina.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 16-year-old Alex Garcia was the driver responsible.

The teen suspect had a hearing Monday morning in juvenile court.

“I’m being informed by the state that the state has made the decision to file these charges in adult court,” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Orlando Prescott. “You’ll be transferred from the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center to the Dade County Jail.”

Garcia is being charged as an adult on nine felony counts.

“It’s going to be one, two, three, four counts of vehicular homicide in reckless manner,” said a prosecutor.

He also faces four counts of manslaughter while driving under the influence and one count of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury.

FHP officials said Garcia had marijuana and alcohol in his system when his vehicle slammed into the victims’ car at West Flagler Street and 79th Avenue.

All four occupants inside were killed.

Family and friends set up a memorial at the scene of the crash. It was first destroyed in late March, with video of the act posted on social media.

The memorial was rebuilt, but on early Monday morning, another video of its destruction was posted on social media.

“This is hard. It’s hard to swallow,” said Medina.

The accounts used and the videos have since been deleted.

“They’re treating the victims as if it’s their fault, like it’s our kids’ fault,” said Medina.

Monday evening, family members received a direct message while they were repairing the memorial, apparently from the person behind the vandalism. It read, “goodbye memorial jaja.”

“You’re a freaking coward. That’s what I gotta say: you’re a coward,” said Medina. “If you have the guts to do this and film yourself doing it, why don’t you show your face if you’re so brave?”

Garcia will make his first appearance in adult court Tuesday morning.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.