Among the police claims that Barrios has steadfastly denied: that he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Jehle, the professor emergency medicine, looked at photos of Barrios’ bruises and was given a description of his injuries. Jehle has conducted studies on seat belt usage and injuries from crashes.
“His injury pattern may well correspond with a belted driver,” Jehle said, but added that it is difficult to tell because Barrios was also hit on the same side as where his injuries are.
Peter Valentin is a former police officer and a lecturer for the Forensic Science Department at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. He read the Hialeah Police Department’s preliminary crash report, and questioned parts of it.
“It seems like they make assumptions as to whose version of events to believe,” he said of the police. “As I look through the report and the photos . . . I see information that argues against the report.”
He said the police report states that Barrios was stopped at the stop sign, but that he didn’t give the right-of-way to the Hialeah detective. Valentin wondered why police marked in the report that they believed Barrios was drinking, that he wasn’t wearing his seat belt, and that he was distracted. The narrative of the police report does not provide any supporting evidence for these assumptions, he said, though that information isn’t always included in an initial police report. Barrios has maintained he had “not one sip” of alcohol before the crash.
Only one witness is listed in the crash report, and that witness did not respond to multiple requests from The Miami Herald to be interviewed for this story.
As the legal battle drags on, Barrios’ family carts him back and forth to doctor’s visits. His time used to be spent at the gym, and working as a manager for Panera Bread, helping the company open stores across South Florida.
While he used to spend hours on his feet, Barrios now can’t get out of a wheelchair. He needs help just to maneuver into and out of the tight doorway of his bedroom. Barrios’ online studies through Valencia College in Orlando are on hold as he awaits more surgeries to repair his pelvis.
His pain is constant. Doctors told him he could expect it to continue for at least a year, Barrios said.
Now, the young man is left to tackle a different kind of pain: the emotional void now that his girlfriend is gone.
“It’s just too much,” he said. “It shouldn’t be like this.”