Handcuffed suspect who drowned was driving stolen car, police say

A man who drowned after being handcuffed and running from police, was remembered as caring by friends. Police say he was driving a stolen vehicle.

01/27/2014 6:32 PM

01/27/2014 10:12 PM

Alexandre Nicolas' middle name is Mozart. Friends called him a musical prodigy. He played piano and sang, and asked a girl to the prom in a video called The Proposal that he posted on his Facebook page.

But late Saturday afternoon, something went wrong during a confrontation between Nicolas and Sunny Isles Beach police.

Nicolas, 20, died after bolting in handcuffs and drowning in a canal, according to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office. The Sunny Isles Beach police officers who followed Nicolas across the 163rd Street Causeway and detained him aren’t speaking. And friends who tell stories of Nicolas being the life of the party are wondering about the tragedy.

"He was supposed to be with me. We left and went to the beach to watch sunset with friends," said Sam Goldberg, a friend of Nicolas', who said he parted ways with him at Duffy’s Sports Grill on the causeway about an hour before the incident.

"The waiter wouldn't even give him a drink. They were joking about it."

Friends on Monday painted a portrait of a young man who was close to family, craved music as a career, and cared about others.

Police declined to comment on Nicolas, but indicated he was someone likely involved in illegal activity and scared of the consequences.

According to some familiar with the incident, Nicolas, who graduated from Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School’s first graduating class in 2012, was followed by Sunny Isles Beach police as he traveled west on the causeway to North Miami Beach. Police pulled Nicolas over in the parking lot of Area Code 55, a Brazilian steakhouse on Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 163rd Street.

After he was cuffed, police said, Nicolas sprinted across at least eight lanes of busy traffic on Biscayne Boulevard, leaped into a canal on the west side of the road, and drowned.

A Sunny Isles Beach officer chased him and jumped in, but couldn’t save Nicolas. Miami-Dade paramedics helped remove him from the canal and took him to Aventura Hospital.

Sunny Isles Beach police on Monday refused requests to release reports on the incident. The small department, which patrols a beachside town of shopping centers and towering condos, doesn’t have a homicide unit and has turned over the investigation to Miami-Dade police. County officers will investigate the death before passing it on to the state attorney’s office, where it will be determined if there was any criminal wrongdoing by police.

STOLEN PLATE

Miami-Dade police said Sunny Isles Beach officers chased Nicolas after a scanner the city uses at intersections identified the license plate on the older model Mercedes-Benz he was driving as stolen. The machine then messaged police, who chased and caught up with Nicolas as he was crossing the 163rd Street Causeway.

After Nicolas pulled over in the parking lot of Area Code 55 at 16375 Biscayne Blvd., police subsequently identified the vehicle as being stolen from Miami Beach. At that point, Nicolas was ordered out of the car and handcuffed. He ran and drowned.

“We have a car where the tag was identified as stolen, followed by identifying the vehicle as stolen,” Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Roy Rutland said. “At that point an officer clearly has probable cause to make an arrest.”

Nicolas had no criminal history. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement database shows he was charged with a non-moving traffic violation, and driving with a suspended license, from Saturday’s incident with Sunny Isles Beach police.

A man identified as Nicolas’ brother said police told his family a similar story. He declined to comment on personal questions asked about his brother before hanging up on a reporter.

Friends on Monday recalled Nicolas as the center of attention, always willing to help, and extremely close to his family. A records search showed Nicolas lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom North Miami Beach home valued at $180,000, and owned by a woman named Julie Nicolas.

Nicolle Garcia knew Nicolas well. The Florida Atlantic University communications student said she would have had a hard time turning down Nicolas’ request to attend the high school prom with him.

First, he posted a sweet, breezy and jazzy three-minute video of himself playing piano and singing a song to her titled The Proposal. The video was recorded in the high school auditorium.

He asked her a second time over the school’s intercom system.

The third successful attempt occurred when Nicolas interrupted Garcia’s biology class to ask her out, even as kids videotaped the romance on their cellphones.

“That’s when I said yes,” Garcia said.

DRIFTED APART

After graduating in 2012, the two drifted apart, running into each other occasionally. Garcia said she spotted Nicolas from a distance at Aventura Mall last week.

“Now I regret not going over,” she said.

Sierra Guida, 19, also met Nicolas at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High. “He was the king of the school,” she said. She said Nicolas visited her at the office where she works in Aventura two weeks ago, “and picked me up and swung me around.”

Goldberg, the high school friend who said he was with Nicolas shortly before his death, said though Nicolas remained close to his high school friends, he also spent time with another group of friends many of them didn’t know well, recording music and making a name for himself in the club scene where he would often help try to promote business.

“He was very well connected,” said Goldberg, now a senior at Mourning High. “He was friends with everyone, and knew all the club owners. He wasn’t great off financially, but he liked very expensive things. He would never leave me behind.”

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