Crime

Police trying to determine if shooting of cyclist on causeway was case of self-defense

Early Thursday morning a group of about two dozen cyclists set off from Coconut Grove toward the Rickenbacker Causeway with camera crews trailing behind. When they reached the spot where a cyclist was shot and killed a day earlier, the group stopped.

A rider choked up as he talked about the need for cyclists to take care of each other and their love for the sport. When he was done, the cyclists bowed their heads for a moment. Then the ride continued.

Cyclist Alex Palencia was shot and killed early Wednesday morning on the William Powell Bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway during a dispute with a man on a motorcycle who was riding along with the group and streaming it live. The motorcyclist, Kadel Piedrahita, suspected of shooting Palencia, remained free Thursday and had not been charged with a crime.

On Thursday Piedrahita’s attorney, Sabino Jauregui, said the shooting was preceded by some type of “beef” between the two men prior to Wednesday’s ride. The attorney said before Palencia was shot he got off his cycle and attacked Piedrahita. When Piedrahita’s son, who was also cycling that day, tried to separate the two, he too was attacked, Jauregui said.

The attorney also said that on a video obtained by the Miami Herald someone appears to be handing something to Palencia, who points toward Piedrahita, before Palencia is shot and killed.

“Whatever [Piedrahita] did, he did in self defense,” Jauregui said, adding that his client remained on the scene next to Palencia until police arrived.

Before the cyclists rode Wednesday, Piedrahita ranted on a live Facebook feed, swearing profusely about Palencia for more than two minutes. In the video Piedrahita never explained why he was so angry.

“I am doing this video to call out Alex Palencia,” Piedrahita began, holding the camera as he walked, and complaining that Palencia blocked him on Facebook. “When you see me, come at me because I am going to f--- you up. You messed with the wrong guy.”

He ended his tirade warning Palencia, “I’m going to cut you in half when I see you. Just touch me, f-----. Touch me to see my fury. You will know my fury.”

Piedrahita’s rant was removed after the shooting. A cyclist who rode with the group the morning Palencia was shot said the fight stemmed from Piedrahita’s video.

If that’s the case, police haven’t said so.

By Thursday, they had confiscated the gun they suspect was used to kill Palencia, a local insurance agent with family who lives out of town and whom police still hadn’t named publicly. Investigators continued the painstaking task of gathering forensic evidence and trying to piece together the events behind a shooting death that was bizarre even by Miami standards.

“We’re talking to witnesses and to the state attorney’s office,” said Miami Police Cmdr. Freddie Cruz. “There was no other weapon found.”

Several videos of the shooting surfaced Thursday, including one that clearly showed a heavy-set man wearing dark clothing involved in some type of confrontation with several cyclists on foot and near the side of the bridge. At one point the man draws a weapon with his right hand and fires, striking Palencia in the stomach area on the roadway. Palencia collapses. The shooter then points the weapon at another man before the video ends.

Law enforcement sources said Thursday that Piedrahita is still considered “a person of interest” and that investigators were trying to determine if Piedrahita was defending himself as his attorney said. Another source said it appeared Piedrahita and Palencia had some sort of longstanding feud.

Palencia, 49, the father of two, was riding early Wednesday morning with a group of dozens of cyclists referred to as the Don Pan riders because of a spot in South Miami the group once used as a starting point. On Wednesday, as they do four times each week, the group began at Red Road and Sunset Drive at 6:15 a.m., headed north on South Bayshore Drive, then cycled past the toll booth toward Key Biscayne.

Piedrahita, 41, whose son is a Don Pan cyclist, was trailing the group and recording it live on a Facebook feed, as he had done many times before. As they rode toward Key Biscayne on the bridge, Piedrahita’s video feed showed one of the riders reaching out toward him. Piedrahita’s camera fell, the picture went blurry and words were exchanged. Then someone says “dispara, dispara,” — shoot, shoot — and the faint sound of gunfire can be heard.

Some of the cyclists found the shooting perplexing, saying they often cycled alongside Piedrahita while he was on his motorcyle blocking traffic and videotaping the group. After the shooting, Palencia was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was declared dead a few hours later.

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.

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