For Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson, the traffic gates separating Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines had nothing to do with the deadly crash that left 48-year-old Maritza Medina dead.
Medina was killed when shooting suspect Antonio Feliu crashed his car into hers during a chase at the intersection of Griffin Road and U.S. 27 more than a week ago.
"That animal, that piece of garbage that ran that red light at 115 miles an hour is the one responsible for Mrs. Medina's death," Nelson said.
He was opposed by more than 100 people who turned out Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil where they urged Southwest Ranches officials to remove the gates.
“I strongly oppose the roadblocks and I would love them to be brought down for the safety of everybody else,” one woman said.
"Take these gates down," another speaker declared.
Those attending the vigil honored Medina, celebrated her life and prayed for her soul. They also called for action on the gates, which Southwest Ranches erected on three streets last year to stop cut-through traffic from a commercial area in Pembroke Pines.
Widower Diego Medina said Wednesday that his wife, who had just dropped her daughter off at school, would never have been on that intersection if it weren't for the gates. He said they force those who want to drive out to Griffin Road to use U.S. 27 and that his wife never used that road when they first moved there.
Medina said Thursday, "The bottom line is that my wife would have never been at that intersection if those gates weren’t there.”
Area resident Tom Gelthaus said the gates are a result of a nasty feud between the two communities.
“This is a personal vendetta for Mayor Nelson because Pines stopped the detention center that was going over in Southwest Ranches. They refused to give them city water and fire protection," Gelthaus said.
That is not true, Nelson says. He said the gates are much-needed traffic calming measures, and were put up in response to residents’ complaints.
The mayor said the town is not planning on taking any action.
"The gates are important and were installed as a result of a significant issue out there with cut-through traffic," he said. "We have an obligation and responsibility to our residents."
Below: The back of the T-shirts that many vigil attendees wore.
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