Four days after a man died while in the custody of Hialeah police, the department has yet to disclose any information other than the man’s name.
The dead man’s mother, however, identified him as Treon “Tree” Johnson, 27, a featured fighter in local filmmaker Billy Corben’s upcoming movie about bare-knuckle backyard brawls in Perrine.
Angela Curry said a Hialeah police detective said her son died Thursday afternoon after they found him on a rooftop throwing coconuts at a dog that had bitten him.
“He said they Tasered him and transferred him to Hialeah Hospital. Then he went into cardiac arrest and they transferred him to North Shore,” Curry said.
Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby confirmed that the dead man was Johnson. But the department would not release his date of birth, time of death, location of the incident, or any information on what might have caused Johnson’s death.
“He passed last Thursday, a few hours after being detained,” Zogby said Monday. Records at the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office show a Treon Johnson was brought in at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Police Chief Sergio Velazquez called it an “ongoing investigation,” but said he couldn’t add anything more without clearing it with the department’s legal advisers. When pressed about whether Johnson was shot, or police had used a Taser on him, Velazquez hung up.
Moments later, Zogby said there would be “absolutely” no information released Monday night. Earlier in the day he had said information on the incident was on its way.
Curry said her son split time living between the family’s Miami Gardens home and staying with his girlfriend. She said he was taken to three hospitals the day he died, and ended up at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
That’s where the family, including her husband, Rickey Curry, went to see Johnson.
“He was already dead when we got there,” she said.
Curry said she spoke with a Hialeah detective about her son as recently as Monday night, but was told a police report wouldn’t be ready for three or four more days.
If Johnson died after being Tasered by police, he is at least the third man to die that way in South Florida over the past month. Those deaths, along with that of graffiti artist Israel Hernandez-Llach in Miami Beach last August, has once again brought attention to the electronic control devices that are meant to subdue, not kill.
The recent string began Feb. 5, when police were called to a domestic disturbance in Liberty City, then confronted 21-year-old Willie Sams. The young man from Georgia was visiting his grandmother and father when he got into a confrontation with Miami-Dade police, who used a Taser on him outside a townhouse.
Then Thursday, the same day Johnson died, Miami-Dade police responded to another domestic dispute, this time in a South Dade home occupied by Maykel Antonio Barrera and a woman. When Barrera tried to slam the door shut, police tried to open it.
At some point Barrera ran from the house and police used a Taser. Two police officers were injured during the altercation. Sams and Barrera were both pronounced dead at local hospitals within a few hours of their confrontations with police.
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner has not yet determined a cause of death in any of those incidents.
Johnson had a central role in Dawg Fight, the Corben documentary on the savage backyard fisticuffs and its cult-like following that young South Dade men compete in to try to catapult their careers toward higher profile Ultimate Fighting events that rake in cash on pay-per-view.
The movie is set for release in the summer.
Corben called Johnson a “prominent” figure in the backyard fighting world who liked to talk in the ring to psyche out opponents.
Miami Herald staff writer Christina Veiga contributed to this report.