On anniversary of tragic killing of four including an FIU student, debate over desecration of a memorial (includes video story)

One year ago, four young Miami residents died in a car accident allegedly caused by an intoxicated driver. Today, a teenager accused of killing them while intoxicated remains in jail and a memorial remains, despite being vandalized. 

On New Year’s Day 2021, 21-year-old Yuhlia Medina and her boyfriend Christian Mohip, 22, along with 21-year-old friends Andre Zacarías and Jenser Salazar were coming home from a night out. 

Medina’s Hyundai Elantra was hit by 16-year-old Alex Garcia, who police say was driving a Chevy Tahoe 111 mph along W. Flagler Street with traces of alcohol and marijuana in his system. 

Garcia was charged with four counts of vehicular homicide, four more of DUI manslaughter, and two of DUI serious injury.

Garcia has been incarcerated without bond for nearly a year and is being tried as an adult. During this time, the memorial dedicated to the victims of the accident has been vandalized several times by an unknown offender. 

A video of the individual defacing the memorial was published online a few months after the accident. On January 2, it was posted on Reddit, and since then has gained tens of thousands of views. The video shows the individual knocking over and stomping on flowers, candles, and photos of the victims. 

“He deserves the worst. I hope justice prevails, I really do,” commented one user, molokococktail. 

The post has nearly 7,000 comments on the subreddit “r/iamatotalpieceofshit”. 

“This really should be the top post on this sub,” commented user GJake8. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so awful, unempathetic, shortsighted, and downright evil.” 

Garcia’s lawyer, Brian Kirlew, stated in an email that the vandalization of the memorial has nothing to do with Garcia.

“Alex Garcia and the Garcia family condemn any act of destruction and vandalism against the roadside memorial to honor the lives of the four young individuals who tragically lost their lives in this terrible accident,” stated Kirlew. “This was not an intentional act by Alex, and he, nor anyone associated with him, certainly has nothing to do with the act of vandalism on the roadside memorial.”

Despite the destruction, the memorial remains standing at the intersection of SW 79th Street and W. Flagler Street. Friends and family have repaired it each time that it was damaged.

Over a year later, friends and family are also still leaving comments on Yuhlia’s Instagram page as a virtual memorial of their love for the FIU student. SFMN reached out to nine of the victims’ family members and friends, but they declined to comment due to the sensitive nature of the incident.

“We miss you out here. May you keep watching over your family & friends,” said user karina_bouret. “Forever & always my Angel.”

Elise Gregg is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in criminal justice. Upon graduation, she would like to pursue a career covering international crime, particularly human rights violations and religious oppression around the world.

Liannys Polanco is a senior FIU student pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Communication/Broadcasting. She obtained an associates degree in mass communications/journalism at Miami Dade college back in 2015. In college, she was able to study abroad in Spain, France, Greece and Italy. The mix of those cultures made a huge impact on her life.