J.P. Mauro, Brazilian Race Car Driver, Charged With Killing Pedestrian On Collins Avenue

01/20/2012 11:00 am ET | Updated Mar 21, 2012

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A Brazilian race car driver has been charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and cocaine possession after fatally striking a pedestrian early Thursday morning in Miami Beach.

Police say J.P. Mauro, 20, was driving 60 mph in a 30 mph zone around 1:30 a.m. on Collins Avenue when his Mercedes SUV veered into the parking lane near 39th Street and struck 45-year-old Russell Knudson, who was loading a bicycle into the back of a Toyota Camry. The impact threw Knudson onto the sidewalk, where he was pronounced dead on scene. [Read the arrest affidavit report here.]

"I heard a horrific sound," Bruce Spizer, a witness sleeping in a nearby hotel, told CBSMiami. "And I thought to myself either I'm dreaming or that was one very serious automobile accident, a lot of sound of metal...I didn't hear any brakes or anything."

Investigators said Mauro, who lives in nearby Aventura and made his American Grand Am debut in June, appeared to have bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. The racer admitted to having been drinking earlier in the evening, according to the arrest report, but said he had to swerve to avoid a stopped vehicle in front of him in the road.

According to police, Mauro also had a "white powdery substance" in his left nostril, and investigators found a baggie of what appeared to be cocaine on the crash scene. He has also been charged with altering his Brazilian ID to appear of legal drinking age.

Police believe Mauro, who comes from a wealthy Brazilian family, is a flight risk, and notified the Brazilian embassy of his arrest.

Update: A judge ordered Mauro be placed on house arrest Friday after his $250,000 bail is processed, reports NBCMiami. Defense attorney Gus Lage told the station after Mauro's court appearance that "we intend to defend these charges, because we believe that the evidence will show that Mr. Mauro was not driving under the influence or involved in vehicular homicide."

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