Homestead - South Dade

March 9, 2013

Homestead police officers fired in brutality cases, cover-up

Two police officers accused of assaulting men outside of Celio's Cuartel Latino bar in Homestead were fired along with another officer who allegedly covered up the incident, a police spokesman said Friday afternoon.

Two police officers accused of assaulting men outside of Celio's Cuartel Latino bar in Homestead were fired along with another officer who allegedly covered up the incident, a police spokesman said Friday afternoon.

The police brutality incident happened nearly three years ago. It involved three officers who were fired in February and suspended with pay in April 2011. They were arrested in July and have cases pending with the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.

Sgt. Jeffrey Rome is accused of kicking a 69-year-old man in the head until he was unconscious and pepper-spraying an undocumented Guatemalan in the face from close range. While Officer Giovanni Soto allegedly beat up another man so badly with a nightstick that he disfigured his face. Meanwhile, Sgt. Lizanne Deegan is accused of failing to report the beatings.

"It is an embarrassment to the police department. It's bad for camaraderie,” Homestead Police spokesman Fernando Morales said. “It's bad for your fellow officers. It's never a good thing."

Morales said that before the firing, the police chief, the city manager and a board of senior officers reviewed the evidence and recommended that the officers be fired.

Immigrant farm workers frequent Celio's Cuartel Latino bar. Homestead detectives who were investigating human trafficking caught the attacks on video and took Arcadio Sosa Rodriguez, 69, to a nearby hospital.

According to a warrant Rodriquez spent a night in the hospital and had cuts and bruises on his ankle, knees and elbow.

Rome is also accused of pepper-sprayed another man in the face, handcuffing him to a fence, and sending away an ambulance that the man had called for, according to an arrest warrant.

Soto, who faces a felony battery charge, and Deegan are accused of misconduct.

Rome, 56, is facing felony charges of abuse of an elderly adult and false imprisonment, and a misdemeanor battery charge. Rome, who is a veteran in the department and was on the PBA's board of directors, entered a not-guilty plea last year.

The PBA union has blasted the investigation as politically motivated.

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