A fender bender with a Florida Highway Patrol trooper in a busy intersection on the streets of Miami left a driver speechless when the law enforcement official lied about wrecking his car, even going as far as covering up the accident scene.
Francis François says he stopped to let traffic clear when all of a sudden a black unmarked SUV struck his car.
The Florida Highway Patrolman driving the car was Sergeant Mark Shoaff. With him in the vehicle was a female trooper. Seconds after the accident, they all got out of their cars to review the damage caused.
“He said, ‘I apologize for running into your car. I’m a law enforcement officer,’ pulled out his badge,” said François. The patrolman then told François “I’m going to make a call and we’ll take care of this” in regards to the damages made on his grey Infiniti.
But what actually happened next left François stunned and wondering if the Florida Highway Patrolmen had broken the law.
A few minutes later François says a Miami Gardens Police Officer showed up only to quickly disappear from the scene. Then the patrolman asked François for them to move their vehicles into an empty parking lot nearby.
“She said she’ll take the report,” François continued. “[But] he told her ‘FHP is coming,’ Florida Highway Patrol. He talked to her and she pulled off.”
WSVN reached out to law expert Howard Finkelstein, who states that while it is legal for FHP to investigate their own accidents, having the Miami Gardens Officer leave the accident scene was not OK.
“Sending Miami Gardens [Police] away looks like a conflict of interest,” Finkelstein said. “And clearing the accident scene before the investigator arrived looks suspicious because that makes it difficult for someone else to determine who is at fault.”
And that is exactly what happened.
When a Florida Highway Patrol lieutenant arrived to the scene to investigate, along with two other Florida Highway Patrol vehicles, François says the lieutenant did not even bother to see the photos he took of the accident only asking to see the images that Shoaff had taken.
“Maybe I was naïve,” François told WSVN recalling the incident, adding that if the cars would have been left where the crash happened it would have been easy to see who hit who. “He didn’t ask to look at my pictures, he looked at the Officer’s pictures. He’s the one that determined there was no way to determine who was at fault.”
According to François, Sgt. Shoaff then told the lieutenant that it was François who hit his black SUV; to François’ dismay.
“I kind of went off. I can’t believe this,” he said. “You just apologized to me. You hit my car!”
To this François says the patrolman just told him “I’m sorry, buddy.”
WSVN waited 60 days to receive the full accident report which showed that the lieutenant wrote “FHP’s Sgt. Mark Shoaff said François struck his vehicle. François said the trooper struck his vehicle.”
“Both vehicles were removed from the roadway prior to my arrival. Due to conflicting statements, neither driver was charged in the crash.”
When WSVN reached out to the Florida Highway Patrol with questions on the matter, the Miami office declined to comment stating that answers would have to come from the Tallahassee office.
“It’s the entire law enforcement community covering up for each other,” François said. “How could I have hit him? They are here to protect and serve, but it seems they are here to protect and serve themselves.”
Since WSVN’s report on the fender bender with François and the FHP patrolman, François’ insurance went after FHP to get their money and his deductible back.
After the story aired, FHP wrote to WSVN stating they had updated the crash report and that Sgt. Shoaff “failed to yield right of way.” Sgt. Shoaff was never charged with the accident but was given a counseling letter, per FHP policy, because allegedly he was on official duty.