A Miami Beach commissioner and congressional candidate tried earlier this year to dissuade the city’s police chief from going after a campaign donor accused of walking around his condo tower with a rifle and hacking fire alarms apart with a machete, according to public records.
Emails from Kristen Rosen Gonzalez’s city account show that about one week after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida, she urged Police Chief Dan Oates to back off his pursuit of Erik Agazim, an arms dealer now facing a dozen felony charges in connection with the destruction of 11 fire alarms at the Sunset Harbour South condo tower.
Police say Agazim, 41, was seen walking around his complex in tactical gear Sept. 15 slashing fire alarms that had been malfunctioning and wailing since Irma made landfall. He was arrested Sept. 22.
But Agazim denies the allegations. And on the day after the incident, he reached out to Rosen Gonzalez for help.
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About five hours after Agazim sent her a Saturday night text saying that he had done nothing wrong but was being hunted by police, Rosen Gonzalez sent an early morning email to Oates defending Agazim as a “meticulous and upstanding businessman.” Rosen Gonzalez, who’d been told that Agazim was only headed to Wynwood to protect his gun range, suggested that police instead go after a neighbor she believed had reported him.
“Please confirm that he is not being pursued by anyone. He has permits for everything he is carrying,” she wrote. “If anyone should be arrested, it should be Frank Kruszewski who is sending the police on wild goose chases.”
The emails, obtained by the Miami Herald and first published Thursday by the Miami New Times, raise questions about whether Rosen Gonzalez took action to benefit a campaign donor and attempted to use her official position to quash a police investigation. Kruszewski, who says he was actually in New Jersey when the incident took place and learned about it when Rosen Gonzalez called him to apologize, believes the commissioner should be investigated.
I’m not a lawyer but I think she interfered with a criminal investigation.
“I’m not a lawyer but I think she interfered with a criminal investigation and used her position as a city commissioner to try to get police to behave in a certain way,” he said.
In an interview, Rosen Gonzalez, who is running as a Democrat to replace the retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen next year, said the $2,700 Agazim gave her campaign in May had nothing to do with her decision to send emails on his behalf. She said she wasn’t aware of the allegations that he had hacked up fire alarms and terrified his neighbors. Had she known, she said, she wouldn’t have weighed in at all.
“Of course not. All I knew was what he told me during a hurricane. It felt awful when I found out later on about the investigation,” she said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t interfere with an investigation. I was helping a constituent and a friend.”
I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t interfere with an investigation.
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
In the text message to Rosen Gonzalez that launched the whole mess, Agazim, whose National Police Equipment Exchange supplies ammunition to local police departments, made no mention of the fire alarms. He contacted the commissioner at 11:15 p.m. and asked “is there anything you can do to assist? I really do not enjoy being a fugitive for something I did not do …”
At 4:21 a.m., Rosen Gonzalez contacted Morales and Oates.
I want that guy in the bunker with me!
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales
Morales, who under Miami Beach’s charter is Oates’ boss — not Rosen Gonzalez — didn’t appear worried about her defense of Agazim. Responding to her messages, Morales declared “I want that guy in the bunker with me!” On the other hand, when the commissioner said she wanted to attend Agazim’s meeting with police, Oates was not amused.
“That would be inappropriate,” he wrote.
Rosen Gonzalez said she gave Agazim’s donation to a foundation set up to benefit the victims of the Las Vegas shooting massacre after she learned about the nature of the allegations against the arms dealer.
This is the second time this year that an incident with police has ensnared the commissioner. In June, following a high-profile shooting, she took heat from progressives after urging Oates to end the city’s use of police body cameras and “give police their bullets back.”
As for Agazim, he has pleaded not guilty and has an arraignment hearing scheduled Friday. His attorney, Sam Rabin, says police don’t seem to have changed anything about their investigation in response to the commissioner’s emails.
“When I got involved in this case it was represented to me the police had videotaped evidence that showed him destroying the fire alarms. That turned out to be absolute, 100 percent nonsense,” Rabin said. “I’m unaware of the commissioner really doing anything that affected the investigation.”
Staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.