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Senate panel advances claims bill for family of Miami autistic teen

A $2.5 million claims bill that would benefit the family of an autistic teen who died after being subdued by Miami police moved forward in a Florida Senate committee Tuesday.

Eighteen-year-old Kevin Colindres died in December 2006 when he stopped breathing after Miami police placed restraints on his ankles. His family contended that the officers, who were later cleared by Internal Affairs, used too much force.

An arbiter last year found the city had been negligent and suggested Colindres' family be awarded $2.75 million in damages. Miami commissioners later accepted the arbiter's findings. But recovering more than $200,000 from a government entity requires a special act by the state Legislature.

Police had been called to the Colindres home after his sister called to say he had become violent. Officers calmed him down but then Colindres tried to run and became violent after police handcuffed him. When officers tried to restrain him, Colindres stopped breathing. He went into a coma and died less than a month later.

A lobbyist for the police department's insurance company spoke against the claims bill, saying the police officers acted in good faith. "I don't think its right to blemish the names of these good officers with an award," Peter Antonacci said. A lobbyist for the city also opposed the measure.

But a majority of state senators agreed, and voted for SB 52, which is sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico.