Three hours before he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, Lauderhill police Officer Elijah “Eli” Rodgers wrote a four-paragraph goodbye.
Then he emailed it to several hundred of his fellow city employees — from City Manager Chuck Faranda on down.
“For those who know me as a friend or co-worker, they know I am a good person who strives to work hard and do the right thing. Unfortunately, some who become [sic] jealous began to weave a web of lies to discredit and try to ruin my career,” Rodgers wrote.
“I want to apologize to all my fellow co-workers for the negative publicity and hope someone listens now.”
The date was Feb. 24, 2011. Rodgers, 31, had just learned that Broward corruption prosecutors were preparing a warrant for his arrest the next day on charges of official misconduct and falsifying official records. He took his life after an hour-long standoff with police at his home in Pembroke Pines.
Broward Bulldog used Florida’s public records law to obtain Rodgers’ email and other documents about what happened.
Newly released records from police and prosecutors show that two of Rodgers’ colleagues in Lauderhill’s troubled Crime Suppression Unit who provided information to prosecutors — Officers Thomas Yopps and Raymond Ranger — were fired in December and January for violating departmental rules regarding honesty and competency.
The city did not announce the firings, and police officials have not publicly acknowledged problems with the Crime Suppression Unit.
Both men contend they did nothing wrong, and are appealing their dismissals.
In his suicide note, Rodgers singled out Yopps. He mentioned no one else by name.
“The lies that Thomas Yopps (police officer) told stated I lied in a police report. I tried to explain to the State Attorney’s office and told them about the hostile working environment to no avail,” he wrote. “Yopps is a bad person who could unravel all the hard work every department in the city has worked so hard to accomplish.”
A report on Rodgers’ death by the Fraternal Order of Police suggests the enmity was mutual.
The report by Lauderhill FOP Lodge 161 Vice President Michael Gordon says a half-dozen officers reported hearing Yopps say Rodgers was a “dirty cop” and that he was going to “get” him. And when Rodgers killed himself, Yopps “placed a Grim Reaper license plate on the front of his police vehicle,” the report says.
In an interview this week, Yopps said he bore no hatred for Rodgers. “I respected him as a person,” he said. He added, however, that he was “extremely shocked, extremely pissed off and extremely upset” when he learned what Rodgers had said about him in his final declaration.
Yopps referred other questions to his attorney, Johnny McCray Jr. McCray did not return telephone messages.
The FOP report strongly criticized Lauderhill police brass for “poor judgments and decisions” that “led to a series of very serious consequences” that probably could have been avoided with proper management.
“Shockingly, not one person on the command staff who had knowledge and failed to act . . . is being held accountable for their failure and that is a travesty,” the report states.