Decorated Miami cop accused of false imprisonment and fondling a woman

A decorated Miami police officer was arrested Wednesday, more than a year after a woman complained that he ordered her into his patrol car while he was off duty but in uniform, then kissed her on the mouth and fondled her breasts without her permission.

Patrol officer Alexi Figueroa — who in 2013 received one of the state’s highest honors for a law enforcement officer — was charged with false imprisonment and two counts of simple battery. He was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight correctional center and his bond was set at $22,000.

Figueroa, 27, was arrested by Miami-Dade police Wednesday because the alleged incident took place outside the city of Miami. Miami police are conducting an internal affairs investigation into the officer’s actions that won’t be concluded until Figueroa’s legal case plays out.

He has been on paid leave since February 2016. Almost immediately after the arrest, Figueroa’s union representation promised he would be cleared.

“The FOP is currently representing officer Figueroa and he is looking forward to his day in court to be exonerated of these charges,” said Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz.

Miami-Dade police weren’t commenting on the arrest and the city of Miami released a one-paragraph statement saying Figueroa would remain relieved of duty “until the conclusion of the court case and our own internal investigation.”

Figueroa’s attorney Robert Buschel said he wasn’t willing to fight the arrest warrant’s claims in print, but that he feels they’re ready for trial.

“We’ve known about this investigation for some time,” Buschel said. “We’re prepared for our day in court. We believe he’s innocent of the charges and we’re looking forward to a jury trial.”

Figueroa, who joined the department in 2012, was awarded the Medal of Heroism by Florida Gov. Rick Scott at an elaborate ceremony in 2013 for apprehending a gunman who was firing a gun at a supermarket. Figueroa was off duty that day and had gone shopping with his family.

According to his arrest warrant, Figueroa, who worked patrol in the Model City neighborhood, had just left his shift the night of Jan. 26, 2016, when he approached a woman walking near Northwest 80th Street and Seventh Avenue. The 19-year-old woman, who isn’t named in the warrant, told police she went to the store to get toilet paper.

She said that after a brief conversation, Figueroa circled around his vehicle and ordered her into his car. When she got in the front passenger seat, she told police Figueroa began talking to her “inappropriately” then kissed and fondled her.

That’s when, she said, she ran home and told her mother. The next day she contacted Miami’s Internal Affairs division. There, officers, according to the warrant, showed her a picture of several men and asked her identify Figueroa.

She pointed him out. It wasn’t him. Figueroa wasn’t among the men pictured by police.

Still, detectives continued to investigate the woman’s claim, the warrant said —even opining that “the officer who was identified by the victim does bear a resemblance to the defendant.”

Police later found video surveillance that placed a police car at the exact location where the woman claimed the incident took place and at the same time. The video also clearly showed the patrol car’s number — which matched the car taken home by Figueroa that night with information in police logs.

The woman said while she was home the day after the alleged incident, her mother’s cellphone rang. The woman told police she picked it up and immediately recognized the voice on the other end.

The woman told police she did not give Figueroa her cellphone number.

“The victim immediately hung up in terror,” the warrant says. “The victim thereafter moved from the neighborhood in which she had been living due to her fear of retaliation by the defendant.”