OPA-LOCKA, FLA. (WSVN) - Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder died Tuesday morning after he crashed into a tree at the Opa-locka Executive Airport, leaving unanswered questions and prompting sources close to him to say he took his own life.
According to reports and friends close to the situation, Pinder was driving at nearly 100 mph before he struck a tree located in a large open field at the airport.
Miami-Dade Police said a passerby spotted Pinder’s city-owned black Chevy Tahoe, at around 8 a.m. “A female who was walking her dog saw a vehicle that appears to have crashed into a tree,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Jennifer Capote.
Loved ones said Pinder was found inside the SUV already dead. “I can’t believe this is what’s happening,” said Artis Grant, a family friend.
“I think nobody knows what happened yet,” said Opa-locka resident Alvin Burke.
Loved ones and constituents gathered near the scene of the high-speed head-on collision, in the large open field.
Former Opa-locka City Manager Steve Shiver told 7News Pinder showed no signs that would indicate he would want to kill himself. “I never once got any indication of him wanting to end his life,” he said. “Terence was a friend.”
The flags at Opa-locka City Hall flew at half-staff on Tuesday. Opa-locka Mayor Myra L. Taylor released a statement, Tuesday afternoon: “Our thoughts and hearts go out to the loss of our great colleague, friend and brother, Commissioner Terence K. Pinder. The entire Opa-locka community joins in sending our condolences to the Pinder family.”
Pinder’s apparent suicide comes in the midst of a financial probe into the City of Opa-locka. According to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Pinder was set to turn himself in to Miami-Dade officials Wednesday on corruption charges, which were unrelated to the financial probe into the city.
Investigators said the city commissioner had used his position to solicit bribes and accept thousands of dollars in payments. In a statement released Tuesday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said, “Pinder was scheduled to surrender on bribery and unlawful compensation charges related to bribes he solicited to help a local businessman. No such charges or offenses are worth taking one’s life.”
The owner of Ecological Recycling Paper acted as an informant who recorded phone conversations. Included in Pinder’s arrest warrant was an exchange where the former commissioner asked for another payment to continue scheming. The report states that Pinder said, “Tell the owners to send me some more Christmas presents. The owners … of the building … we’re a little low.”
In that exchange, the informant replied, “Let me get all the paperwork, and let me see if we can give you some love.”
Pinder said, “I need some love, baby.”
The informant replied, “No love, no deal.”
In another exchange, Pinder said, “If a vendor of something wanna talk now, and it’s some good [expletive], it’s $5,000.”
Informant: “Five thousand dollars? You don’t go less than $5,000?
Pinder: “I can’t.”
Informant: “It’s not worth it.”
Pinder: “I’m the man.”
Informant: “You’re the man.”
But Pinder wouldn’t have his day in court, leaving no easy answers behind. “[Him] being like that made me pull my pants up and put my belt on and tuck my shirt in my pants,” said Grant. “I mean, he had nothing but a positive influence on me since I’ve known him.”
Police continue investigating Tuesday’s incident.
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