If prosecutors are right, Adrian Santos didn’t do a very good job of being inconspicuous at a popular downtown Miami nightclub.
Early on a Sunday morning during Thanksgiving week, they say the off-duty Miami police officer pulled out a small plastic bag, leaned his head towards it and snorted up a white powdery substance.
An employee at the E11even nightclub saw him, Miami police say, and surveillance video inside the club recorded the episode. When security confronted him, Santos handed over the bag and was escorted from the club by the head of security.
On Monday evening, almost two months after he was initially detained, Santos surrendered and was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center charged with a single count of cocaine possession. The arrest was delayed until a police analysis of the powder, which came back showing it was cocaine. His bond was set at $5,000.
The arrest of a cop on an everyday drug charge drew a lot of attention from police brass and elected leaders. The Miami-Dade State Attorney issued a statement and the city’s mayor and police chief took part in a news conference at police headquarters.
“This is unacceptable at every level of our organization,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes. “We hold officers to a higher standard than this.”
Francis Suarez, Miami’s recently elected mayor, said the episode put a damper on a department filled with hard-working cops.
“Unfortunately, incidents like this have a tendency to tarnish and diminish the entire department,” he said.
And Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the county’s state attorney, said the arrest ensures the integrity of the local policing community.
“Every police officer who has taken an oath to enforce the law also has a duty to respect and follow the law,” she said.
But Santos’ attorney John Cunill questioned the timing of his client’s arrest warrant. The 25-year-old officer was relieved of duty with pay on Nov. 18 and the police department has begun the termination process. In December, Santos filed a lawsuit fighting the termination attempt that claims the city has been negligent in forwarding him information in his investigative file.
Santos, who has been a Miami cop for almost three years, and his attorney had a hearing scheduled Tuesday morning with Miami police regarding his employment. Santos was ordered to turn himself in on the cocaine charge on Monday. He posted bond and was able to attend the meeting with his attorney, who said not much was accomplished.
“It’s just conspicuous it [the arrest of Santos] happened hours before I’m going to his employment hearing in the morning,” Cunill said.
As for the arrest, Cunill said it was too soon to discuss the charges against his client, who hadn’t been arraigned by Tuesday night.
Police department attorney George Wysong called the timing of Santos’ arrest “unfortunate.” He said the two issues were following their own paths and just happened to converge at the same time.
“It’s just pure coincidence,” he said.
Firing police officers accused of crimes has proven particularly difficult in Miami. The case of officer Adrian Rodriguez is a good example. Miami has spent almost a decade trying to fire Rodriguez, who the city believes helped orchestrate a botched store robbery that left a young ex-Marine dead before Rodriguez became an officer.
Last year an arbitrator ruled the city should reinstate Rodriguez, who has never been charged but who has refused to discuss the case since he gave a statement in 2007. The city has appealed that ruling and Rodriguez has been on paid leave for years.
E11even, located at 29 NE 11th St. in the heart of Miami’s club district just west of downtown, draws guests from all over the world. It bills itself as a “24/7 Ultraclub.” Only a few hours before Santos was detained on Nov. 18, the club was the site of an arrest that made headlines in the sports world.
Former Miami Dolphin Ray Maualuga was arrested on battery charges after refusing to pay a $40 bar tab, police said.