Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rest In Peace Enrique Vincente Olivera

Miami Herald-

Thursday night: Enrique Vincente Olivera dines with friends and heads to his Kendall home.

Hours later, the 28-year-old's body is found sprawled in the southbound lanes of the Palmetto Expressway. In his possession: a can of silver spray paint. Above him: a green-and-white roadway sign marred with graffiti.

Officials think Olivera was killed after falling about 24 feet to the roadway, but they don't know if he is connected to a group of local graffiti artists.

''There appears to be fresh silver writing on the sign above where his body came to rest,'' said Lt. Pat Santangelo. The Florida Highway Patrol is trying to cobble together the last minutes of Olivera's life.


Olivera's death came a week after ''tags'' were painted on I-95 signage in Miami. On one sign, the tag Buk 50 was sprayed in red, white and black. Another sign had the moniker ''EDGE'' splashed across it.

The shock of Olivera's death spilled over to the Internet, where graffiti artists mourned his passing. The website -- which calls itself an ''online exhibition'' of graffiti art -- offered condolences for ``MERK.''

The site has a list of those in the ''cartel,'' identified by pictures of their tags.

It's unclear if he was part of the group or had contributed samples of his graffiti work. Images of the tag ''MERK'' were posted under the words: ``To our fallen Brother, Comrade, Friend . . . Rest in Peace homie, you will be missed but never forgotten.''

Friends and family members were well aware of Olivera's love for art, but said they weren't aware of a penchant for graffiti. ''He was an artist; that was his passion,'' said Leo Machado, 25, who has known Olivera since they were young boys. ``He loved to do that, that was his thing.''

Machado said neither he nor the family were aware that Olivera intended to climb onto a traffic sign catwalk early in the morning. ``I don't know why he did it.''

Police say Olivera fell off the catwalk over the Palmetto Expressway near Bird Road around 12:30 a.m. and was spotted by a motorist.

Alejandro Gonzalez de Mendoza was stunned to find a dead body on the highway. He was driving south on the busy thoroughfare when he saw what he thought was debris in the right lane. He tried to avoid it, but couldn't.

''He stopped and realized it was a body, so he backed his truck up to protect the body,'' Santangelo said.

The vandalized sign had visible black writing -- the tag ''KOZMIC'' and ''oooDe.'' It was unclear if Olivera had painted on either of the two large expressway signs.


On Friday afternoon, friends and family gathered outside Olivera's West Kendall home at the Esprit community, a series of well-manicured mustard and white townhomes.

''We're still getting over the shock,'' said aunt Kathy Olivera, from outside the doorway. She would say no more under the advice, she says, of an attorney.

''Come back in a few days. We're still getting over the shock,'' she repeated.

''He was a blood brother,'' said another pal who asked not to be identified.

The late Olivera worked for Sea Level, a Miami-based company, helping to do restoration work on cruise ships.

A woman who answered the phone at Olivera's workplace Friday said, ''You are not the first one calling today and I have no comment,'' before hanging up.

Records show Olivera has been arrested three times in Florida. None of the arrests were related to graffiti.

In 2002, Fort Lauderdale police arrested Olivera on a petty theft charge. He pleaded no contest and had adjudication withheld, records show.

In February of last year, he was arrested on charges of knowingly driving with a suspended license. He was arrested on the same charge again in December. He had several traffic infractions in Miami-Dade, records show.

His family released a statement condemning graffiti and reiterated that Olivera was a good man, always there when anyone needed him.

``We do not condone this type of behavior and can only hope this tragedy will keep others from doing the same. This isolated incident was out of Enrique's normal character. . . Unfortunately, he made a mistake which ultimately cost him his life.''


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