Key Biscayne

Police release man in causeway shooting death, but say he’s ‘still a person of interest’

Before motorcyclist Kadel Piedrahita caught up to a pack of bicyclists heading toward the mainland on Rickenbacker Causeway early Wednesday morning, he began a Facebook live post.

“Here are my people,” Piedrahita says in Spanish as his motorcycle reached the group. He points out a man on a bike to his right that he calls Frankie, then there’s commotion and confusion. “Go ahead, touch me,” someone is heard saying on the Facebook post, before issuing an expletive in Spanish. The camera falls. The rest of the video is a blur as a bicyclist is shot.

“Dispara dispara” [shoot shoot], someone can be heard saying along with faint sounds of what seems to be gunfire.

Miami police are still trying to untangle a roadway shooting that left a man dead and shut down rush-hour traffic toward Key Biscayne. Adding to the mystery: Several cyclists consider Piedrahita friendly and say he often tags along with the group on his motorcycle, videotaping them and blocking oncoming traffic.

Police questioned Piedrahita, 41, for most of the day Wednesday and said he was the suspected shooter. They did not name the victim, who was taken to the hospital where he later died. A law enforcement source said family members who live out of town had not been reached by late afternoon. WSVN Channel 7 identified the cyclist who was killed as Alex Palencia, 48.

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A separate video obtained by the Miami Herald shows five men standing on the side of the causeway just before the shooting who appear to be arguing. The sky is still pretty dark. There’s a brief skirmish. Then a heavy-set man in dark clothing raises his right arm and fires, the muzzle flash visible, before the man who is struck falls in the roadway. The man with the gun then points it another cyclist before the video ends.

Piedrahita’s Facebook page, which also showed previous posts of him riding along with a group of cyclists on what appeared to the Rickenbacker, was taken down by 9:15 a.m.

“We’re still trying to put this together,” said Miami Police Cmdr. Freddie Cruz. “We have one guy in custody and we’re looking at the fact that they possibly knew each other.”

One law enforcement source said Piedrahita and the dead cyclist are believed to have had some type of longstanding feud — over what wasn’t exactly clear.

Late Wednesday after a full day of questioning, Miami police released Piedrahita, saying he was still “a person of interest.”

“The evidence is not enough to make an arrest at this time,” said Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier. “The investigation is still open and ongoing.”

The dozens of cyclists in the group, known as the Don Pan riders after a now defunct restaurant in South Miami where they used to begin their ride, are a common sight to residents of South Miami, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne.

Every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday the group meets up at the corner of Red Road and Sunset Drive in South Miami at 6:15 a.m. From there, they travel north through Coconut Grove and along South Bayshore Drive, then the group veers off through the toll to Key Biscayne, where they cycle to the village and then back out toward the toll booth.

Eddie Alvarez, a senior Miami manager for McClatchy, parent company of the Miami Herald, was riding at the front of the pack Wednesday and said he didn’t witness the incident. Alvarez said he saw Piedrahita, whose son is one of the Don Pan riders, on his motorcycle before the ride began. He’s there quite often, Alvarez said.

“He gets at the back of the pack and he usually keeps the traffic at bay,” said Alvarez. “And he really has been a friend to the cyclists.”

Police said the shooting happened shortly before 7 a.m. on the causeway that connects Key Biscayne to the mainland. The riders were heading toward Virginia Key when the shooting happened. Though traffic was permitted to continue to exit the island, the entrance to Key Biscayne at the toll booth was shut down during the morning rush hour.

Piedrahita appears to regularly record rides of the group on his Facebook page, which was filled with Facebook Live group ride videos. His profile photo asked motorists to respect cyclists by giving them room on roadways.

Miami Herald staff writers David Ovalle and Andres Viglucci contributed to this report.

Miami Police closed eastbound lanes on the Rickenbacker Causeway during morning rush hour after a cyclist was shot on Wednesday morning in Miami, August 14, 2019. Pedro Portal

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Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.