Miami police officer defiant in questioning
Detectives suspect that a Miami police officer, a decade ago and before he was a cop, helped set up the robbery that ended in two gunmen fatally shooting an Allapattah store manager.
But Adrian Rodriguez, when interviewed by homicide detectives years later, refused to answer any questions about the killing. And he was equally uncooperative — and at times defiant — when questioned last week by a city attorney, according to newly released video.
A city attorney pressed Rodriguez on why he left the meeting without answering questions from homicide detectives.
“There is a person who has been killed in a robbery murder,” said attorney Kevin Jones. “There’s a tip that identifies you as someone with knowledge.”
Rodriguez interrupted. “In a situation, you wouldn’t like look for counsel?” he said, rolling his eyes.
City officials this week released video footage of the contentious arbitration hearing for Rodriguez. He was fired last year, not for the homicide, but for a series of minor administrative violations. With union support, Rodriguez is seeking to get his job back with back pay.
The footage shows assistant city attorney Jones pressing Rodriguez for details about the killing, over objections from the cop’s lawyer Eugene Gibbons.
“You moved your car right before the manager of the store was shot?” Jones asked.
“If you’re asking me if I moved the car when we were leaving the store, yes,” Rodriguez said.
“And your car just happened to block in the manager’s car... that’s what happened, right?” Jones shot back.
Rodriguez, stone-faced and shaking his head, bristled at the grilling. “No.”
“You knew the manager was taking a large sum of cash that day to the bank, right?” Jones said.
“I’m instructing him to take the Fifth Amendment,” Gibbons shot back.
The video was made public days after the Miami Herald first chronicled the story of Rodriguez, a patrol officer who is suspected of helping orchestrate the 2007 murder of Yosbel Millares, a manager and father-to-be was gunned down in a robbery as he left his Allapattah cell-phone store.
Rodriguez’s union-appointed attorney insists that his client was fired unjustly, and as the right under the Constitution to refuse to answer questions from homicide detectives or the city attorney’s office.
“He's never been arrested for the homicide. He's never been charged. He was a police officer in fine standing at the time he was let go,” Gibbons said during the hearing.
Gibbons later told the Herald: “Adrian is not required by law or by any condition of his employment to voluntarily subject himself to such continued harassment.”
At the time of the killing, Rodriguez was not a police officer but worked at the store alongside Millares, the store manager. Rodriguez was interviewed right after the shooting, but was not considered a person of interest then.
Rodriguez went on to join the Miami police academy and became a sworn officer in 2009. He worked in a low-key role as a patrolman in Overtown until Miami homicide detectives, in late 2010, were tipped off that he and his father might have played a role in setting up the robbery that led to the killing.
Under Florida law that would make both Rodriguez and his father accomplices to the murder.
The key evidence: a phone call made by Rodriguez’s brother, Brian, to a friend who was in jail in Orange County. In the recorded call, Brian Rodriguez accused the friend of blabbing about “what happened with my middle brother.” Detectives believe the reference was to the Millares murder.
Investigators soon learned that Brian Rodriguez had confided intimate details about the crime that the general public did not know to witnesses. Included in that conversation, police believe, was the alleged involvement of his brother, Adrian, and their father, Norberto. The cops believe the family arranged the robbery of the cell-phone store.
After months spent working the case, Miami homicide detectives in February 2013 brought in Adrian Rodriguez for an interview, telling him that his father was a “person of interest.”
Rodriguez “abruptly” ended the interview, refusing to “talk about the case because it involved his father,” according to personnel records.
“When they make it known you they are looking at your dad, you get up and walk out, correct?” Jones asked during last month’s hearing.
“I seek counsel,” Rodriguez said.
“That’s not my question,” Jones shot back.
“You guys are questioning me about my father possibly being part of an investigation that I was there that day, yes, I’m going to seek counsel,” Rodriguez said. “Yes, I did walk out.”
Rodriguez was relieved of duty with pay soon after that meeting. In his arbitration hearing, Rodriguez also admitted he immediately went to meet with his father, to tell him about the investigation.