A Miami driver has been awarded $1million after being injured in a car crash when another man who was being shot at by police lost control of his vehicle and smashed into him.
Juan Perez was left unable to work and requires round-the-clock care from his wife as a result of the crash.
He was driving in January 2012 when Sweetwater police officers near Miami opened fire on criminal Felipe Torrealba as he tried to drive away from them.
A bullet struck Torrealba in the ear, causing him to lose control of his own car and crash into Perez.
Juan Perez, 63, was hospitalized after being injured in a 2012 car chase between Sweetwater police and another man. The suspect lost control of his car and plowed into Mr Perez’s
Perez sued the police department and was awarded the $1million in damages on Tuesday.
The police officers were acting outside their jurisdiction when they pulled Torrealba over at the side of the road, lawyers representing Perez said.
He had outstanding warrants for drugs and assault and, at the time, police said he was ‘armed and dangerous’.
Shortly after being pulled over, he sped off to try to escape and the officers involved opened fire on his car.
Torrealba survived the crash and was arrested. He is now in jail serving time for the aforementioned assault charge.
He testified for Perez’s lawyers that on the night in question, he was not armed as police had claimed.
He said he only started driving away from them because he was afraid they were going to hurt him.
At the time, Sweetwater police officers were involved in a racketeering scheme with a local towing company.
Felipe Torrealba (left) had outstanding arrest warrants for drugs charges and assault. Sweetwater Police Sergeant Reny Garcia (right) was one of the officers who opened fire on him. Garcia has since been arrested on corruption charges
That scheme is at the heart of a separate criminal investigation into widespread corruption across the city which was led by the FBI.
As part of it, police officers allegedly towed cars illegally and then received profits from the sale of them at auction.
They also allegedly pocketed cash from criminal fines.
Disgraced Sweetwater mayor Manny Maroño was convicted of federal corruption as a result of the investigation and spent two years in prison.
In a statement on Tuesday, Corona Law Firm, which represented Perez, described the outcome as a ‘big’ victory for the man.
‘Obviously, he can’t work at his construction job any longer,’ Carolina Corona, his attorney, said as she contemplated the value of his $1million settlement.
Torrealba remains in jail on assault charges.
Sweetwater Police Department (above) has been engulfed in corruption accusations. It paid Perez $1million