Miami-Dade County

Implicated in a murder, cop returns to work after court victory – and is told to go home

A court has ruled for the third time that Miami police officer Adrian Rodriguez, implicated in a murder more than a decade ago, must be allowed to return to work. He returned Tuesday and was immediately relieved of duty, suspended with pay.
A court has ruled for the third time that Miami police officer Adrian Rodriguez, implicated in a murder more than a decade ago, must be allowed to return to work. He returned Tuesday and was immediately relieved of duty, suspended with pay. Miami Herald file

A Miami cop who’d been fired for refusing to cooperate with homicide detectives investigating his possible role in a murder returned to work Tuesday after several court opinions in his favor, then was promptly relieved of duty.

This time, police said, Adrian Rodriguez was suspended with pay because he refused to submit a urinalysis and because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigate a 2010 botched-robbery-turned-murder at the Allapattah MetroPCS store where Rodriguez worked before he became a cop.

Immediately after his client was sent home, Rodriguez’s attorney, Eugene Gibbons, filed a motion asking the same Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge who had earlier ruled in Rodriguez’s favor to hold Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina and the City of Miami in contempt.

“Adrian Rodriguez has not been found guilty of anything as much as a parking ticket,” said Gibbons. “It’s what the arbiter and courts have ordered. He did nothing wrong.”

To which Chief Colina replied: “I’m going to do what I think is proper and correct. In no circumstance am I going to let an officer come back when he refuses to submit a urinalysis and while he’s under investigation.”

Gibbons said his client was willing to take a urine drug test, but there was no suspicion that he was on drugs to justify it.

Rodriguez, who worked at the cellphone store when manager Yosbel Millares was gunned down in 2007, became a Miami police officer a year later. He was implicated in Millares’ death in 2010 after detectives learned the officer’s brother had confided to witnesses details about the crime that the public did not know, including the alleged involvement of Rodriguez and his father, Norberto Rodriguez.

In 2013, homicide detectives interviewed Rodriguez. When he learned police suspected that his father had taken part in the botched robbery, Rodriguez invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. His firing in 2016 led to a string of arbitration and court proceedings that have all ended in the officer’s favor, including a ruling from the Third District Court of Appeal on Aug. 1.

Still, Rodriguez hasn’t worn a badge for more than two years.

The fight over Rodriguez’s employment as a cop stems from the 2007 shooting death of Millares, a former U.S. Marine who was about to become a father. On his way to deposit money, he was gunned down by two men in the parking lot of the store. Homicide detectives never believed the store was randomly targeted. Surveillance video showed the car used by the gunmen idling near the store before Millares headed to the bank.

Rodriguez was interviewed the day of the shooting, but there was no evidence at the time that he played any role in Millares’ death. The case was revived in 2010 when Kissimmee police called Miami homicide detectives and let them know that Rodriguez’s brother, Brian Rodriguez, had called a friend in jail and accused him of blabbering about the 2007 murder. The call was recorded. Detectives later found out that Brian Rodriguez had confided to witnesses details of the shooting that the public didn’t know.

Miami police are investigating whether the Rodriguez family arranged the robbery at the cellphone store. Even though he has been relieved of duty, Rodriguez will receive pay retroactive to April 2017.

Rodriguez’s string of court victories began in May 2017 when arbiter Donald Spero determined that the officer was well within his rights to invoke the Fifth Amendment and that his firing was “improperly based” on his failing to speak about the killing. The city appealed. In December 2017, a Miami-Dade circuit judge affirmed the arbiter’s ruling. The city again appealed, and earlier this month the Third District agreed with the lower court’s ruling.

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