River Cities

Virginia Gardens police chief, on leave for driving while medicated, moves out of state

The Virginia Gardens police department is currently under the command of Lt. Juan Sosa until the village council decides what to do next, Mayor Spencer Deno IV said.
The Virginia Gardens police department is currently under the command of Lt. Juan Sosa until the village council decides what to do next, Mayor Spencer Deno IV said.

Virginia Gardens Police Chief Jim Chohonis failed to return to work last December after being placed on leave.

“The chief sold his house, has been unresponsive to emails and moved to North Carolina,” said Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno IV, who placed Chohonis on administrative leave last July after a multi-city police chase ended in gunfire near Village Hall.

The Miami Herald reported last July that Hialeah police shot two burglary suspects inside their car near Northwest 36th St. in Virginia Gardens.

“On July 6, 2016, you attempted to drive your police vehicle in uniform to an active crime scene where two subjects were detained and the use of force could have been required,” states a Sept. 16 memo from Deno to Chohonis obtained by the Herald through a public records request. “It came to my attention that you have been using an opiate pump due to your medical condition.”

Deno added that the village had a reasonable belief that Chohonis could pose a “direct threat to yourself or others due to your medical condition and the medications that you are taking,” states the memo.

When Chohonis’s administrative leave period ended last October, he started using his accrued vacation and sick leave until it was all exhausted, records show.

Chohonis failed to return to work on Dec. 19, 2016.

“Your failure to return to work as expected … leads me to conclude that you have abandoned your position,” Deno said in a Jan. 19 memo. “The Village will consider that your employment voluntarily terminated on December 19, 2016.”

The Virginia Gardens police department is currently under the command of Lt. Juan Sosa until the village council decides what to do next, Deno said.

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