One of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's adult sons, Carlos J. Gimenez, was traveling in a car in the wee hours Thursday morning that was hit by a driver who ran a red light.
The crash was caught by the city of Miami's traffic cameras facing northbound and southbound at the intersection of West Flagler Street and LeJeune Road. The controversial cameras have been in the news recently as city commissioners debate whether to create a special board to hear ticket appeals.
They have also become a political issue in the mayoral campaign between incumbent Tomás Regalado, who supports the cameras, and Commissioner Francis Suarez, who opposes them. Regalado's supporters quickly disseminated video of the accident involving the younger Gimenez.
Miami has temporarily suspended the issuance of red-light tickets, pending the commission's decision. But the cameras are still on -- and they captured footage of the accident. As it happens, Carlos J. Gimenez for years lobbied on behalf of American Traffic Solutions, the company that runs Miami's cameras. He stopped representing them in February.
"Working for them all those years, I've seen a million of those videos," Gimenez said. "But living through it was a totally different experience."
The video shows Mata's car, headed southbound on LeJeune, stopped at the red light. When the light switches to green, the car begins to advance and then stops again -- because Mata saw the black Mercedes 550 running the westbound red light on Flagler, he said. The Mercedes appeared to slow down some but hit Mata's car anyway. (See the video caught by the northbound camera here and the better video caught by the southbound camera here.)
The most striking part of the video is that it appears to show a post-collision attempt by the people traveling in the Mercedes to switch places to make it seem like someone other than the driver was behind the wheel at the time of the accident, Gimenez and Mata said.
Gimenez and Mata said a man was driving the Mercedes. The video shows the man walking out of the passenger door of the car, opened by a woman who was in the back seat. A second woman was the only other passenger in the car.
"I saw him driving," Mata said.
Miami police arrested a woman, 18-year-old Maricary Martinez, who said she was behind the wheel, for driving without a driver's license. Martinez told police she "was here from Cuba for two days and didn't have any I.D." according to the police report. A man who answered Friday evening at Martinez's phone number hung up on a Miami Herald reporter.
The man in the vehicle was 29-year-old Alain Alfonso, of Miami Gardens.
The accident caused about $10,000 in damage, according to the police report, and "minor injuries" to Gimenez and Mata. Gimenez said he had suffered a mild concussion. Mata said his leg hurts some but he's otherwise OK.
"It was incredibly scary," said Mata, who has not worked for ATS. But now, he said of the cameras, "I'm a believer."