KEYS DEPUTY RECOVERING FROM INJURIES IN DRUNK DRIVER CRASH

a couple of cars that are sitting in the street
A 26-year-old Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy was seriously injured April 9 after a drunk Minnesota woman slammed her Toyota Prius into the deputy’s patrol vehicle as he was handling a traffic stop on U.S. 1, MCSO reports state. CONTRIBUTED

A Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy was seriously injured April 9 while he was handling a traffic stop on U.S. 1, after a drunk driver struck his patrol cruiser as he was walking between his car and the one he had pulled over, the sheriff’s office said.

The crash left the 26-year-old deputy Julian Garcia pinned between both vehicles.

Deputies freed the deputy from the two cars that were on the side of the road near MM 87, and he was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital with injuries to his lower body. He was in stable condition the day after, according to MCSO spokesman Adam Linhardt. Garcia underwent a series of surgeries and remains in the hospital. 

The driver who struck the deputy’s patrol car was identified as Alexandra Marlene Baraga, 26, of Shoreview, Minnesota, who is currently living in the Keys. She had a blood alcohol level of .310 — nearly four times the legal limit — while behind the wheel of a 2014 Toyota Prius, Linhardt said, and was not injured. 

The Florida Highway Patrol took Baraga to the county jail and charged her with multiple DUI-related crimes.

Baraga, whose occupation is listed as animal care, was released from the jail on Stock Island on April 10 after posting a $95,000 bond, according to MCSO online jail records.

Her arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 23 before Judge Luis Garcia at the Plantation Key Government Center in Tavernier.

Baraga couldn’t be reached for comment on April 11 and it wasn’t immediately clear whether she has legal representation. 

The driver the deputy had stopped, Andrew James Gibson, 20, of Homestead, was taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier with non-life-threatening injuries. Gibson was later taken to jail on a warrant for failure to appear in court.  

Sheriff Rick Ramsay said it was a difficult time for everyone at the sheriff’s office.

“One of our brave deputies has been seriously injured in the line of duty because of the thoughtless actions of a drunk driver,” Ramsay said in a statement. “For the cost of a taxi or ride share, she jeopardized the lives of everyone on the road.” 

The injured deputy has been with the sheriff’s office since February 2022. The sheriff’s office is supporting Garcia as he continues to face a challenging medical situation, which has included multiple surgeries and an extended hospitalization ahead. 

Those wishing to support Garcia can donate to Venmo and search Maugarcia, Cashapp and search Mauricioga or Zelle to Mauricio Garcia at 786-602-3280.

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.