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Councilwoman injured in hit-run

A car fleeing police hit Mary Alvarez' car Tuesday afternoon. She was taken to a hospital for neck and back pain.

Published December 13, 2005

Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Alvarez suffered minor injuries Tuesday after a hit-and-run accident sent her car spinning in the middle of the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Clearfield Avenue.

A white 2000 Ford Explorer was fleeing police when it slammed into the front-driver's side of Alvarez's gold 2004 Jaguar shortly before 4 p.m., said Tampa Police Cpl. Jim Harris.

Alvarez turned away an ambulance at first, but eventually her husband took her to Memorial Hospital. She was complaining of neck and back pain, Harris said.

The incident began when two police officers in an unmarked car were monitoring the Explorer as it made several rounds through Robles Park. The driver of the vehicle had his hand out of the window as if he were trying to sell drugs, Harris said.

Officers Ron Simpson and Mike Distefano watched the vehicle run a stop sign at the intersection of Central Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. They turned their blue patrol lights on in an effort to pull the car over, but the Explorer began speeding westbound on the boulevard.

Harris said the officers did not chase the SUV. But they soon spotted the vehicle again driving recklessly as it turned from Martin Luther King and Clearfield Avenue, striking Alvarez' vehicle.

The driver of the SUV then abandoned his car in the median, taking off on foot. Before it was over, Simpson and Distefano chased him several blocks, through back yards and over fences. They were directed by a neighbor to 3908 N. Ola Ave., where they arrested the driver, Carlos Luis Rodriguez-Matos, 27, of 2210 W. Hillsborough Ave., police said.

Police discovered marijuana and drug paraphernalia at the residence. They also arrested James Ivan Barnes, 20, and Irma Bermudez, 20, who reside at the Ola Avenue residence. Barnes faces drug possession charges while Bermudez was charged with obstructing or opposing an officer.

[Last modified December 13, 2005, 22:04:36]

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