Maritza Medina never would have been in the west Broward intersection where she was killed in a crash last week if it weren't for gates on the Southwest Ranches-Pembroke Pines border, her husband said Wednesday.
Medina, 48, was killed when a shooting suspect crashed his car into her vehicle during a chase at the intersection of Griffin Road and U.S. 27 one week ago.
Diego Medina focused attention on the traffic issue between the two feuding towns when he spoke with reporters at the family's Pembroke Pines home.
“These gates are basically putting a lot of people’s lives in danger for no real reason, no real reason, other than two municipalities fighting amongst themselves. The bottom line is it’s very hard to find any reason or any logic in what happened to me, but the truth of the matter is the one fact is that my wife would have not been in that intersection if those gates weren’t there," he said.
Southwest Ranches erected metal barriers on three streets last year to stop cut-through traffic from a commercial area in Pembroke Pines that has long plagued the Broward town.
Diego Medina said that with the gates there, everybody in his neighborhood who wants to go out to Griffin Road has to use U.S. 27. His wife never went out on 27 when they moved there, he said.
At the same time, the grieving widower said he didn't blame anybody.
“I can’t use the word blame. There would be too much anger with that," he said. "But I do know, like I said before, that if the gates weren’t up, my wife would not have been at that intersection.”
She was driving home after dropping off her daughter at school last Wednesday morning when Antonio Feliu, who was fleeing from police, slammed his Mercedes SUV into her Mercedes at the intersection of Griffin Road and U.S. 27.
Medina was ejected from her car. As a SWAT standoff with Feliu, 48, took place, three responding officers went to get Medina and drove her to paramedics nearby, but she was pronounced dead.
More than an hour after the crash, SWAT officers moved in on Feliu’s SUV and discovered that he had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Feliu fatally shot two women at their home in South Miami Heights before the chase and crash, according to police.
While Diego Medina thinks the gates played a role in his wife's death, those on the other side of the issue say the reason why she died was because a man speeding away from police ran right into her car.
The controversy over the gates has been brewing for years, dividing the communities of Pembroke Pines and its northern neighbor, Southwest Ranches.
Maritza Medina wanted the gates removed, and Diego Medina says he does too. That would eliminate the risk of navigating U.S. 27, he said.
Family and friends plan to hold a candlelight vigil at Thursday evening’s Southwest Ranches Town Council meeting to honor Maritza Medina’s memory – and to urge town officials to bring down the gates.
Diego Medina also talked about Maritza's life on Wednesday. Their two daughters are ages 24 and 18.
Diego Medina said they met when she was nine years old, and began dating when he was 16.
He lost his breath and his knees buckled when they first kissed.
After they got married a few years later, she stuck by him, he said.
“She never looked at who I was but just kind of looked at who I was going to be. And I didn’t know who I was going to be, but she did. She saw the husband, she saw the father, she saw the man I am now,” Diego Medina said. “And she was willing to wait, and I thank God she did, because I have 30 years of an unbelievable marriage.”
“She was my wife, my partner, my lover, my best friend – everything," he continued.
Now, he said, he's trying to figure out what bank he uses.
"She did everything for me. I am completely lost. I have a hole inside of me that will never be filled," he said.
"I can't say I'll miss her, because that's just not enough," Diego Medina concluded.
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