COMPLAINTS VARIED Accusations range from assault to theft The Herald's review of internal affairs files involving the officers shows there were complaints about narcotics planted in pockets and guns pulled during traffic confrontations. Some people told stories about being arrested, handcuffed, taken to darkened streets and stomped on by some of these Miami cops. Among the people who claimed they were abused: Jorge Mas Santos, now chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation; a preacher; a doctor and a teen skateboard champion. But many of the complaints were discounted. In one strange case in 1997, two men called 911 and said that three men - who seemed to be officers or police impersonators - had forced their way into their Northwest 62nd Street house at gunpoint, stolen their money and driven off in a red Nissan Altima without making any arrests or giving them any paperwork. A half hour later, dispatchers asked whether any Street Narcotics officers had worked a raid in the city's north end. No one responded. Then, a supervisor remembered that Officer Glenn Maura had picked up a city-issued Altima the day before. When confronted, Maura said he was chasing a drug suspect into the house - with Beguiristain and Macias. All denied taking anything. Maura said in a recent interview he did not remember details of the incident. Investigators gave the three officers reprimands for not answering their radios and for not filling out reports. As for the robbery allegations: "Inconclusive." In some cases, investigators had evidence of wrongdoing, but the victims refused to cooperate. In 1997, the pastor of Solid Rock in Christ Jesus Holiness Church called internal affairs and said that, looking from just outside the Brownsville church's entrance, she had witnessed a police beating. Jessie Mae Brown said she saw two plainclothes officers pistol-whip a man they believed was dealing drugs, take his money and jump back into their red convertible as other plainclothes officers were arriving. "He took the money out of that man's pocket and put it in his own pocket, " Brown said in a recent Herald interview. "He beat that boy right down there by the ear on the back of his head until the blood started coming. "I said, 'You know you don't have to do that.' And they told me, 'Get out of here, lady!' " The two officers were Beguiristain and Oscar Ronda, both later charged with lying about their role in suspect shootings. They said the drug dealer had hit his head on a fence. But evidence backed up Brown's account. Beguiristain's gun tested positive for blood. The dealer, Howard White, said he had more than $390 in his pocket, but only $130 made it into evidence. The internal affairs investigator, who never interviewed Beguiristain or Ronda, said his hands were tied because White refused to file a complaint. "I was scared and I just wanted them to turn me loose and let me go, " said White, who pleaded guilty to the drug charges. "They would come after me for the rest of my life, every little thing, that's what I felt." Like the alleged rip-off, the beating case is now under review by federal investigators. NO PUNISHMENT Some people win lawsuits but officers not punished Sometimes, cases were dropped without any investigation. In November 1991, Mas Santos and friend Carlos Valdes said they were pushed, grabbed by their hair and belts and marched to the CocoWalk security office by Beguiristain and another officer, who wanted them to leave at the mall's closing time. Mas and Valdes later met with then-chief Warshaw, who persuaded them to withdraw their complaints, according to Capt. Miguel Exposito, who has filed a lawsuit against the department alleging he was punished for pointing out wrongdoing. Mas and Valdes declined to comment. Several times, alleged victims of Miami police misconduct won money in lawsuits, even though the department hadn't punished the officers. It happened to Willie Ross, who charged he had $500 stolen in a jailhouse beating by Officer Rafael "Ralph" Fuentes, also one of the 14 officers facing federal charges. Ross said Fuentes hit him with handcuffs. Medical records showed his hand was broken. Ross later won a $16,000 civil judgment. Fuentes denied abusing Ross or taking his money. It happened to Ricky Martinez, who was 16 and skateboarding in Bayfront Park when he made a smart aleck remark to Beguiristain, who wanted him to stop. "He just went to him, grabbed him and pushed him to the ground. He was bleeding, " said witness Rosario Roman, an administrator at Miami-Dade Community College. Martinez was charged with battery on a law-enforcement officer but the charges were dropped, his lawyer said. And the city gave him a $10,000 settlement.
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