Police chief changes tune: Former cop who violently punched valet should be arrested

Former police officer K.O.'s hotel worker to avoid paying the $18 valet

A former police officer was caught in a surveillance video sucker punching a worker at the Ocean Sky Hotel & Resort after he refused to pay $18 for valet parking.
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A former police officer was caught in a surveillance video sucker punching a worker at the Ocean Sky Hotel & Resort after he refused to pay $18 for valet parking.

The video couldn't be more clear: A man who parked his car at a Fort Lauderdale resort walks up to the valet and cold-cocks him with a hard right to the jaw. The valet, hands still in the pockets of his black shorts, drops like a rock. The man stands over him and touches the unconscious man. Curious onlookers gather.

Turns out the pugilist told the hotel manager he is a former Atlanta-area cop named John Kiernan. And though evidence that some type of assault took place seems overwhelming, Kiernan was not taken into custody or charged with a crime.

Now, almost a week after Ocean Sky Resort & Hotel valet Rodolfo Rodriguez was laid out for several minutes, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione changed the department’s tune and said Kiernan, who now lives in New Smyrna Beach, should be arrested and prosecuted.

“Generally speaking, the police department does not conduct follow-up investigations on misdemeanor crimes, but did so on this case due to the egregious and unprovoked nature of the attack,” Maglione said in a prepared statement.

The chief’s excuse for the delay: Rodriguez did not have any visible injuries when police saw him Tuesday night and they did not obtain a statement from Rodriguez or see his medical records until Saturday, four days after the vicious punch.

Monday, Maglione said his department’s investigation into the incident was complete and passed along a battery charge to the Broward State Attorney’s Office. Kiernan had not been taken into custody by Tuesday.

The department’s initial reaction to Kiernan’s punch caused an uproar as the video shot through cyberspace.

“First of all, there is no such thing as a complete investigation,” said Miami criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum. “They determined at the time they did not have enough evidence to arrest him. And I’m okay with that. But the minute they saw the video they should have arrested the guy. That was the most egregious, unprovoked battery I’ve seen on videotape.”

Maglione said police had the video by Wednesday morning.

Kiernan threw his punch at about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. Staff at the hotel, a large tourist destination on Fort Lauderdale’s Galt Ocean Drive, said they were stunned when police arrived, spoke to Kiernan and others, then let him go.

Rodriguez said Kiernan began yelling over the $18 valet fee and demanded to speak to a manager. Kiernan then told Rodriguez he was going to fight him, the valet recalled, and punched him in the face.

“I don’t remember anything at all after the punch,” Rodriguez said. “I was five minutes on the ground.”

Hotel Manager Nigel Blair said Rodriguez, who had worked at the hotel for about a year, was simply explaining the rules about Kiernan’s parking fee, when the former cop sucker-punched Rodriguez.

“The victim is knocked out on the ground. The ambulance had to take him away. The poor guy is unconscious,” said Blair. “Ten witnesses state what happened and they didn’t have enough to hold this guy?”

Blair said Kiernan was ejected from the hotel after a two-day stay.

“All of the employees right now are very upset,” Blair said. “They're under the impression that someone can just come in and do them harm and nothing can come of it.”

Blair said he received a copy of Maglione’s statement, but is still likely to head down to the state attorney’s office to try and bolster the case.

“I don’t know what else they need to see to see this was a vicious attack,” he said.

On Friday, Rodriguez returned to work with a sore jaw.

Said the hotel manager: “The guy was just doing his job.”