A judge arrested last week, accused of threatening the mother of his child with a rifle, shot and killed himself early Friday morning, ending a tense 10-hour standoff. At one point, police begged him to flicker the home’s lights to show that everyone was unharmed and to release a 13-year-old girl.
When it ended, federal administrative law judge Timothy Maher was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. And the family members he held hostage inside the barricaded South Miami-Dade home — including the teenage girl — were unharmed.
“They [police] were receiving messages via text, just saying,‘Help, we need help,’ basically,” said Miami-Dade Detective Christopher Thomas.
Though police had not publicly named or said how the survivors were related to the judge, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said the three hostages were the brother of Maher’s ex-wife, that man’s wife and their teenaged daughter. Maher, 51, had spent the past decade reviewing disability cases for the Social Security Administration office in downtown Miami.
Police were initially alerted to the standoff at 23965 SW 113th Passage, a leafy community of single-family homes, at about 11 p.m. Thursday. Miami-Dade police Sgt. Carlos Rosario said that’s when someone told police they had received a text from someone inside the home saying they were being held hostage.
SWAT members and hostage negotiators descended on the home and soon began communicating with Maher through cellphones. That communication broke down a few hours before Maher ended his life, police said. When it did, a negotiator brought out a megaphone, tried to calm the hostages and pleaded with the troubled judge to signal that everyone was OK.
“Jose, Tim or Ana, we are not going anywhere,” the police negotiator said through the megaphone, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS 4. “All you have to do is turn your lights on and off so that we know you are OK. A simple request, please.”
When no one responded, he continued.
“Your honor, if you are in that residence, please, you or someone else inside the house turn the lights on so that we know everyone is OK. We don’t need to escalate this at all.”
The lights turned on and the negotiator kept talking.
“I know you are a good father, Tim. Do me a favor as a sign of good faith, please be willing to let Sarah come out the front door. She is a 13-year-old girl and does not need to go through all of this. You’re a father. Please let the girl out the front door.”
No one was released.
Near 9 a.m., police heard a gunshot and rushed the house. Before they gained entry, the three hostages ran outside. Inside, police found Maher dead from a single gunshot. Rosario said Miami-Dade police never fired on the judge.
“Once they heard the gunshot and before they made entry, the hostages came out,” said Thomas, the Miami-Dade detective.
On Saturday, police revealed the hostages were married couple Jose and Ana Rodriguez, both 49, and their 13-year-old daughter. The scene of the hostage situation was their home, which Miami-Dade County property records show belongs to a man named Christians Cruz.
The disruption in the normally quiet community of red-tiled adobe homes had police evacuating residents and blocking off streets. Michael Rivera, 17, said police in full SWAT gear banged on his door near midnight and ordered everyone out. Rivera said his home is directly across the street from where Maher committed suicide.
“We were woken up by a bunch of SWAT teams just telling us to leave,” said Rivera, who with his mother went to stay with a cousin who lives nearby. They still couldn’t get home late Friday morning as the street remained blocked off.
The standoff was the culmination of a 10-day cat-and-mouse game between the troubled judge and local and federal law enforcement that began with Maher being arrested on firearms charges and included the shutdown of a downtown Miami Social Security office.
Police were first alerted to Maher on Aug. 15, after the mother of his infant son went to his El Portal home to pick up the child. She told police she sent Maher a text when she arrived and he greeted her at the door with their child in one arm and a gun holstered on his opposite hip. She said the judge verbally threatened her and kept pointing a shiny flashlight in her eyes.
After the child was placed in the woman’s car, she told police, Maher continued to verbally assault her and she saw him pointing a rifle toward the rear window of her vehicle as she drove away and called police. When El Portal police arrived, they found Maher locked in his home and hiding behind a wall. Police set up a perimeter, but the commander on the scene was able to talk him out of the home.
Maher was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, child abuse with no great bodily harm and resisting arrest without violence. He was jailed and ordered to stay away from the child. But he was released a short while later after posting a $13,000 bond. His arrest report said Maher and the woman were a couple for four years but broke up in April. He told the judge he spent 15 years prior to working at the SSA as an assistant U.S. attorney and senior counsel to the Treasury Department.
The next day, when police and federal agents went to Maher’s home to retrieve his weapons, he again locked himself inside and once again had to be talked out of the home. From that point, worried about the cache of weapons they had confiscated, police kept an eye on the judge.
Then Tuesday, a worker at the Social Security Administration office in downtown Miami where Maher worked, received a threat against his life. Law enforcement assumed the threat came from Maher and workers were sent home. The office was shut down on Tuesday and Wednesday.