Omar Rodriguez, a tormenting menace to his Kendall neighbors for years, insists he was acting in self-defense when he killed a man after an argument over a dog relieving itself in a yard.
But two witnesses, according to accounts obtained by the Miami Herald, told police that the only thing that victim Jose “Pepe” Rey had in his hands that June night was a drink — and both those hands were in the air when Rodriguez opened fire.
“The gentleman — he’s not a gentleman — that animal, he must have been seven feet, 10 away from my husband,” Lissette Rey, the victim’s wife, told Miami-Dade police detectives. “My husband with arms up like, ‘What’s your problem?’ And he just shot him. And then after he shot him and he fell, he came over to his body and shot him multiple times.”
Neighbor Hector Serpa said he saw Rey backing away as Rodriguez brandished a Glock 9 mm pistol.
“It didn’t look like he was threatening Omar in any way?,” a detective asked. Serpa replied, “Absolutely not. No way.”
The witness statements and police reports, obtained by the Miami Herald from the state through a public-records request, offered new and chilling details in a deadly confrontation that led to a murder indictment against Rodriguez, a man with a long history of clashes with neighbors. A law-enforcement source also said investigators have video that supports their account. But the 66-year-old Rodriguez, in his statement to police, insisted that Rey cursed up a storm, threatened to gut him and came at him with a “shiny object.” A knife was later found at the scene.
“I’m not the type to use my gun recklessly,” Rodriguez told police in a 28-minute audio-recorded statement. “I’m not the type of guy that would hurt no one without a reason, a good reason. It was a split-second decision. I felt my life was in danger.”
Rodriguez remains jailed while he awaits trial for first-degree murder in the slaying of Rey, a father of two who fought for his life for nine days before succumbing to his injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center. “When all the facts are made known, this is a case about self-defense and the justifiable use of force,” his lawyer, Alan Ross, said on Friday.
Rodriguez is a much-reviled figure in Kendall, where many neighbors report episodes of stalking, bogus code complaints and frivolous lawsuits. Though he has been arrested several times, Rodriguez has escaped any serious jail time over the years. Since 2008, his neighbors have filed more than 140 complaints with police about Rodriguez’s behavior.
One Kendall neighbor accused Rodriguez of leaving dead kittens in her pool, while another claimed he falsely accused her of illegally neutering animals inside her home. Rodriguez, who finished law school but never became a lawyer, over the years has filed a slew of failed lawsuits against neighbors and even police officers, accusing them of various conspiracies.
The shooting happened outside the the Village of Kendale home of Rodriguez’s son, who lives near his father. Rodriguez was known to drive back and forth in the neighborhood looking for defecating dogs.
“He has grandchildren and fears for their safety as it pertains to dog fecal matter in the yard,” according to a police detective’s report.
Just a few days before Rey was shot, the court documents show, Rodriguez had a spat with a different neighbor over a dog. That neighbor, whose identity was shielded in police reports, said Rodriguez pulled his truck up “violently” and confronted him over his dog attempting to urinate on his son’s yard. That argument ended without violence.
But the next day, someone sent a letter to the unnamed neighbor’s boss, claiming the man had been drunk during the confrontation. The same neighbor said somebody, he believed Rodriguez, also called the county’s animal control department to complain about the dog’s vaccinations.
Then on the evening of June 20, Rey and his wife were walking their dog in front of the home of Rodriguez’s son on the 10300 block of Southwest 97th Street. They stopped to chat with Serpa at the man’s fence. Neither Rey nor his wife, a marketing employee at the Miami Herald, even knew Rodriguez. Serpa knew him well — he said Rodriguez had been tormenting him for awhile.
As he often did, Rodriguez was patrolling the block in his truck. He parked on a swale, snapped on his high-beam truck lights and began revving the engine menacingly, Serpa told police.
“I said, ‘Pepe, that’s the guy we say is nuts around here and has had problems with all the neighbors. Why don’t you guys come right in and we’ll listen to some music,’” Serpa recalled.
Rey agreed, but said he needed to take his dog back home. His wife stayed with the Serpas, asking her husband to bring her back a drink from their home.
For his part, Rodriguez claimed that when he asked Rey to keep his dog off private property, the man began cursing and calling him names in Spanish.
“Be careful, because I’m going to [expletive] you up, I’m going to kill you,” Rodriguez claimed Rey said. Rodriguez peeled off his shirt. He said Rey left to return the dog, vowing to beat him up.
When the two started arguing again, Rodriguez said he saw a “shiny thing” in Rey’s hand. So he reached into his glove compartment and pulled out his Glock and fired from about 15 feet away, he said. “He was coming at me,” Rodriguez told detectives afterward.
Rey, the man said, tried to get up and so he shot him several more times. When the man’s wife came running to her mortally wounded husband, Rodriguez admitted he began yelling at her because she “grabbed” something at the shooting scene he wanted “intact.”
But Serpa and Lissette Rey gave starkly different accounts from Rodriguez’s. Lissette Rey said her husband did not carry any weapon, just the drink she’d asked him to bring.
A law-enforcement source said video surveillance from a neighbor’s home supports their version: that Rey had his hands up, not threatening Rodriguez. Miami-Dade prosecutors, by law, cannot release video that depicts a killing.
As she tried to give aid to her husband, Lissette Rey said, Rodriguez repeatedly began threatening her too. “As soon as I got to his side, he told me, ‘Get away from him or I’ll kill you too,’” Lissette Rey said.
Paramedics arrived — and heard Rodriguez still yelling at Rey’s wife. Police officers later found Rodriguez inside his home; cops also found his shirt, which was blood- stained. Rodriguez claimed he found the knife and moved it away from Rey’s body with his hand. But investigators believe the knife might have been placed there by Rodriguez himself. Police impounded the weapon and arrested Rodriguez.