CRIME

Men denied bond after crash kills two Broward cyclists

 

Cyclists were killed when a burglar trying to flee police hit speeds of more than 110 miles per hour.

dchang@MiamiHerald.com

The violent collision that killed two men in Cooper City on Sunday bears the hallmarks of a senseless tragedy: A panicked burglar fleeing police in a car at speeds in excess of 110 miles-per-hour, and two bicyclists — described as loving family men — out for their customary weekend ride in the suburbs of southwestern Broward County.

In the instant that it took for the speeding car to run a red light, collide with a second car, and then carom into the unsuspecting bicyclists, the lives of those involved were changed forever.

Christopher McConnell, 61, of Cooper City leaves behind a wife and three grown children, a successful air conditioning business, and a reputation for kindness and generosity.

Dean Amelkin, 60, of Coral Springs, was also married with children, and owned his own printing business.

Denied bond by a Broward judge on Monday were the two men arrested in connection with the car crash: Obrian Ricardo Oakley, 26, of Miami, and Sadik Rashad Baxter, 25, of Miami Gardens, who are being held in a Broward County jail.

Amelkin and McConnell — pronounced dead at the scene from multiple blunt force trauma — were traveling a familiar route, according to those who knew them. Two other cyclists riding with them were uninjured.

The horrific crash led police to close the busy intersection of Palm Avenue and Sheridan Street in Pembroke Pines for nearly seven hours, as K-9 units and helicopters searched for Oakley in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The tragedy began early Sunday after Baxter and Oakley had left the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood following a night of gambling, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office report. Needing money for medicine and to give his sister, Baxter told police, he agreed to burglarize unlocked cars with Oakley.

The men struck the Rock Creek neighborhood of Cooper City, going from car to car. Among their loot: a drum set, an old iPod, and $2 in change.

Bradley and Carrie Kantor arrived home from the airport about 7 a.m. Sunday to find a silver Infiniti parked in the street and Baxter walking to their driveway, opening the passenger door of a black SUV and rummaging through it. Bradley Kantor whipped out his cell phone, called 911, and took pictures and video of the crime in progress.

According to the police report, Baxter confronted the Kantors and asked them: “Why are you following me?’’

He then left the driveway and headed toward the silver Infiniti — the get-away car — but it was gone.

At the station, Baxter offered to return the $2 to the Kantors, according to the police report.

Meanwhile, Oakley, driving the Infiniti, fled the neighborhood, at speeds of more than 110 miles per hour through western Broward County, he admitted to police.

Following him were police, their lights flashing and sirens blaring, according to the arrest report.

Oakley told police he looked back at his pursuers, and that’s when he hit the red Toyota traveling westbound on Sheridan Street at the intersection with Palm Avenue.

The collision caused Oakley’s silver Infiniti to spin out of control. The car then struck the cyclists and came to a stop, after which Oakley jumped out and ran into an apartment complex to hide.

Oakley told police that after a while he realized he needed to give up, and he walked out onto the street, where police arrested him at about 11:50 a.m. Oakley admitted the key found in his possession was for the silver Infiniti, which his girlfriend let him borrow on special occasions, according to the police report.

BSO officials indicated that the agency is investigating the facts of the case, and privately questioned whether a pursuit took place. BSO policy allows deputies to pursue violent felony suspects, but only when the risk of harm from evasion is greater than the potential harm to the public arising from a pursuit.

Baxter is charged with burglary, larceny and petit theft, as well as violation of probation that he received for grand theft in Miami-Dade.

Oakley is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, burglary, petit theft and causing a crash involving death or personal injury.

On Monday morning, family and friends memorialized the two men killed during their usual Sunday morning bicycle ride.

A bouquet of flowers surrounded by other bunches of flowers, along with two U.S. flags, rested at the intersection of Palm Avenue and Sheridan Street, where black skid marks in the road, and a dented railing and damaged trees along the roadside remained as evidence of the crash.

Those who knew Amelkin and McConnell remembered them fondly.

Larry Deknegt of Pembroke Pines had known McConnell for about 30 years, and said his friend enjoyed riding his bicycle to the beach, to Miami and other places.

“That’s how he exercised,’’ Deknegt said, “he rode.’’

Deknegt described McConnell as “a real nice guy, would help you any way he could.’’

Lauren Katz said she and her husband were out to dinner with the McConnells on Saturday night, and she was shocked to learn that her neighbor of about 10 years had been killed hours later.

Katz called McConnell “a great family man … very reliable, decent, kind person.’’

Katz said McConnell had been hit by a car about six or eight months ago, and suffered fairly severe injuries.

“This was really the second time he was hit,’’ she said.

The two slain men were not known to be part of any official local bicycling club, said Celia Conti of the Cooper City-based South Broward Wheelers bike club. Still, Conti said local bicyclists are likely to organize a memorial ride soon, and are certainly taking the tragedy to heart.

“You just realize how vulnerable you are out there,” Conti said. For bikers, “it doesn’t matter whether they’re a member of your club, it’s a community, and we try to show our support.”

Miami Herald writer Ava Rivera contributed to this report.

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