LAUDERHILL -- LAUDERHILL --
What began as a report of a minor injury stemming from a run-in with a tow truck driver has turned into a traffic homicide investigation that may be complicated by police delay in securing what now may be the scene of a crime.
At the heart of the probe is the death of a Keiser University official who was apparently run over by his own car as he tried to prevent it from being towed from in front of his house.
"In this case there was an element of delay because the call originally came out as not a serious crash," said Capt. Rick Rocco. "We are gathering information as best we can."
Elias Konwufine, 39, associate dean of Keiser's graduate school, died at Broward Health Medical Center about two hours after he fell in front of his Sienna Green condominium on Northwest 67th Way.
Further complicating the investigation are conflicting accounts of what may have happened as Konwufine and his wife tried to stop the car from being towed just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"I came out first and told the driver, 'He is coming. He is going to move the car,'" said Francisca Konwufine. "But he didn't listen to us."
The incident began soon after Konwufine came home from work to find the two legal parking spots in his driveway were occupied, one by his wife's car and the other by the car of a tutor the couple had hired for their autistic 7-year-old son. There is no street parking in the complex.
Konwufine left his car parked on the sidewalk and was in the house when a neighbor knocked on the door to tell the couple that a tow truck driver had hooked up his car, parked in apparent violation of condo association rules, said Francisca Konwufine, a high school chemistry teacher.
In interviews with two television stations, the Capitol Towing driver, identified only as Ken, said Konwufine jumped on the running board of the tow truck and was pounding on the window.
The driver told WTVJ-Ch. 6 he slowed the truck, looked back and "saw him get back off the truck."
The driver said he next felt "a bump, not knowing he fell off the truck. His car ran over him."
Dean Freeman, an attorney representing the Konwufine family, said witnesses dispute that version of events.
"This was a tow for greed that went awry," said Freeman. "The trucks surf the neighborhood to make money. They have been harassing this community for years."
Neither the towing company nor attorney Steven Valancy, who represents the condo association, responded to requests for comment Monday.
As the tow truck pulled away from the condo with the Mercedes, Konwufine said her husband was face down in the sidewalk, blood oozing from his forehead.
Taken by ambulance to Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, Konwufine was pronounced dead about two hours later, according to police. The cause of death is pending.
"It happened so fast," said Konwufine. "I was in shock."
When the ambulance left with Konwufine, the Lauderhill police officer, believing the injuries were not serious, also left the scene, said Rocco. Police returned to the scene only after learning that Konwufine had died.
While Konwufine's car remains in the police impoundment lot, the tow truck may be back in service, said Freeman. He said he has written what is called a "spoilation of evidence" letter, advising the towing company not to alter or repair any damage to the tow truck.
But, Freeman said, "The tow truck and the crime scene are contaminated."
Residents of Sienna Green say the condo association is well known for using towing services to enforce strict bans on parking in the community.
Adriana Coronel, 33, who lives next door to the Konwufine family, said her car or the cars of her guests have been towed twice in the last year. "There is lots of towing here," she said.
Joaquin Felix, 43, said he was one of about 20 Sienna Green residents who met Saturday to air complaints to association board members about towing practices. "They are allowed to come and take any vehicle they want," said Feliz, whose car has been towed three times in the past year.
A picture of the tow truck a Konwufine relative said she took Wednesday during the incident shows this warning: "Entering this truck could be hazardous to your health. We carry a stun gun, taser and cattle prod. Beware of driver."
Rocco said he met with Konwufine's family and attorneys on Sunday and explained that the investigation remains open. "There has been no determination on whether anybody will be charged," said Rocco. "We're looking at everything about that evening. We are trying to find anybody else who saw the incident."
Results of the police investigation will be presented to state attorney for possible charges, said Rocco.
Keiser University and its foundation, the Keiser Mills Family Foundation, announced Monday that a scholarship would be created in Konwufine's name to promote his "legacy of learning."
In academic circles, Elias Konwufine was known as "one of our esteemed colleagues, a young man with a big heart," said Keiser University graduate school dean Sara Malmstrom. He came to the U.S. as an exchange student and earned two doctoral degrees from Nova Southeastern University on his way to becoming associate dean of Keiser's graduate school.
The educator was also a descendant of royalty, the great-grandson of a king in his native Cameroon who raised money for road building and other projects in his native village of Awing.
"He was a leader," said his widow. "Everybody counted on him."
In addition to his wife, Konwufine is survived by three children, ages 10, 7 and 14 months. A viewing o is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Fred Hunter Funeral Home, 2401 S. University Drive, Davie. Burial will be in Cameroon.
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