Broward County

It began with a fight over a cellphone. Then it got much worse, cops say.

The three cars involved in a deadly crash in Hallandale Beach July 15, 2018 are being held at police headquarters for the investigation.
The three cars involved in a deadly crash in Hallandale Beach July 15, 2018 are being held at police headquarters for the investigation. Carli Teproff

A fight over a cellphone ended with a driver crashing into another car, fatally hitting a 24-year-old pedestrian, and then shooting himself, Hallandale Beach cops say.

The deadly accident that shut down a residential area for hours happened Sunday night in the intersection of Northeast 12th Avenue and Atlantic Shores Boulevard in Hallandale Beach.

On Monday, police said they were still trying to piece together what led Matthew Bernard Ellison, 34, to speed off and then try to take his own life.

“The driver of the white van, after he crashes at the intersection ... continues traveling a few hundred feet north, comes to a stop,” Sgt. Pedro Abut said. “From witness testimony and some other evidence that we gathered, there is a gunshot heard. Soon after, police arrive and they discover the driver of the white van, sadly with what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Police say it all started Sunday afternoon in the area of the 1000 block of Park View Drive — about a mile east of where the crash happened — with a domestic dispute between Ellison and his unidentified girlfriend.

Ellison — who, according to records, started Cool It Now Mechanical, Air Conditioning & Heating in 2017 — sped off in his work van. His girlfriend followed in a black Mazda SUV.

“It appears he leaves the area and she is trying to get to him to try to get her phone back,” Abut said.

The van headed east on Atlantic Shores Boulevard and when it approached Northeast 12th Avenue it slammed into a white Toyota Corolla, police said. The two people inside were not injured.

“Evidence shows he doesn’t stop at that four-way intersection as he is driving north at a very high rate of speed,” Abut said.

Ellison continues on and hits Iulian Rusanovschi, who was crossing the street.

Meanwhile, Ellison continued a little farther and then got out of the van, police said. That’s when a gunshot is heard.

Police on Sunday night asked for the community’s help in finding the driver of the black Mazda SUV. On Monday, police said they found the driver and the SUV and the woman was cooperating with investigators. All three vehicles, which appeared to have front and side damage, were being held at police headquarters for the investigation.

Ellison was taken to Hollywood Memorial Hospital in critical condition, where he remained Monday. No charges had been filed as of Monday.

Court records show that in May, Ellison started to file for a temporary restraining order for domestic violence against a woman named Antoinette (also spelled “Antionette” in online court records) Smith. The case was dismissed or settled after a hearing on May 23.

Rusanovschi, who police say lived nearby and was likely walking home, was taken to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.

“This is a case of where he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Abut said.