Special Olympian Killed In Miami
Danny Perez's bedroom was plastered wall-to-wall with medals, ribbons and trophies for his athletic accomplishments.
Danny Perez was a local hero in Miami, a Special Olympics gold medalist and someone who represented hope and inspiration in the world of the special needs.
Danny overcame all obstacles. He was born developmentally disabled but beat the odds -- worked hard and graduated from his beloved Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.
After graduation, he didn't stray far. Danny returned to his alma mater and worked his way up in the athletic department as assistant coach.
Players came and went, and the same for coaches, but Danny made the school his home away from home.
"He was the definition of pride and spirit for Hialeah and Miami Lakes and for me personally,” football coach Pedro Basnueva said. “I've been coaching there for seven years, and Danny never left my side.”
Danny was also a fixture at Hialeah's Edgar J. Hall Special Population Center. It was there that Danny trained for the Special Olympics. He traveled across the state and competed in multiple sports, including basketball, swimming, power lifting and cycling. He was a serious competitor, and his sister recalled how disappointed Danny was in himself when he took second place in a cycling event a few years ago in Tampa.
"Even with his disability, he was still always positive,'' said 27-year-old sister Gricel Gonzalez.
In 2008, Danny received the Inspirational Athlete of the Year Award from the Special Olympics.
“He was the pillar of the program,” said Florida Special Olympics Executive Director Mark Thompson. “He competed in cycling, soccer, power lifting and basketball."
His Miami bedroom is plastered wall-to-wall with ribbons, medals and trophies. Danny was proud of his accomplishments. Gricel said Danny's love was cycling, and he was never far from his beloved bike. Even in his last moments of life, Danny was with his bike.
Disability May Have Made Danny A Target
Danny Perez rode his bike all over Miami. Friends and family say he loved his bike, using it as transportation and for competing in athletic competitions such as the Special Olympics in Miami.
Danny rode his bike to compete and as transportation. Friends and family say it was not uncommon to see him biking late at night.
That's exactly what he was doing the night of Friday, March 12, 2010.
Miami-Dade Detectives say Danny was on his bike, heading west on 79th Street. At 11:30 p.m., a shot rang out, hitting Danny. Miraculously, Danny was able to dial 911 with his cell phone. These are his last words:
Danny: “I’m hurting.”
Operator: “Dade County Police and Fire.”
Danny: “Yeah, I got hit – shot by a gun.”
Danny did not survive. He died on the scene, next to his beloved bike.
Investigators now are trying to figure out why an innocent 36-year-old man like Danny Perez, who wouldn't hurt anyone, was shot and killed on the side of the road. Lead Miami-Dade Homicide Detective Jonathan Sabel is trying to unravel the puzzle.
"It’s possible that Danny was picked out and maybe targeted because of his disability, but it’s unknown at this time,” Detective Sabel said. “We don’t have a motive for this crime.” He said Danny’s 911 call is important to the investigation, giving them the start of a timeline of events.
No one has been able to make sense out of this murder. Detectives are hoping someone steps forward and does the right thing. Cops need more information on who the triggerman was.
And Danny's family has a lot of questions too.
"If that person hears me, I ask him to please come and say that he did that because this is terrible for all of us. I need to know why he did that to my son. It's terrible," said Danny’s mother, Gricel Mursuli.
In honor of Danny, his family has created a Web site: www.JUSTICEFORDANNYPEREZ.COM
. The Web site is filled with memorial photos of Danny and information on how people can help.
As Danny's family continues to pray for answers, the Miami-Dade detectives try to solve this ruthless murder. They're pounding the pavement, asking questions and trying to piece together this homicide.
If you know anything about the murder of 36-year-old Danny Perez in Miami on March 12, 2010, call our Hotline right now at 1-800-CRIME-TV.
Murder ; Mar 12, 2010
(Information valid as of April 16, 2010)
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