The many people who feared and fought with Omar Rodriguez over the years saw it coming: A confrontation over dog poop in a yard exploding into gunfire, bloodshed and an attempted murder charge against a man who, by all accounts, ranks atop the list of neighbors from hell.
For decades, residents in three separate Miami-Dade neighborhoods say they have clashed with Rodriguez, some feeling held hostage by his volatility. They say he physically and verbally threatened them, stalked streets brandishing a weapons case and filed strings of bogus lawsuits and false allegations to police and other authorities.
Women in his seemingly tranquil Kendall neighborhood of Glen Cove say they scurry into their homes when they see Rodriguez. Parents tell children to avoid making eye contact. According to police records, one neighbor blamed him after finding her two kittens dead in her pool, along with a dead baby crocodile and another considered him the likely culprit who plastered her walls and a door with excrement.
“It’s unbelievable that it would take a shooting for the police to take action,” said one neighbor, who like many others, was too scared to give his name. “He has harassed and threatened us all.”
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Miami-Dade Police Maj. Nancy Perez, who oversees the Kendall district, said officers have worked with state prosecutors for years to try to control Rodriguez. The state attorney’s office has two legal boxes full of files on him.
“Unfortunately, it had to take this tragedy,” she said. “These people have endured a lot of pain.”
Since 2008, neighbors have filed more than 140 complaints with police about Rodriguez. Prosecutors invariably determined Rodriguez’s antics fell just short of criminal and he often responded by filing complaints against cops and prosecutors.
Last week, police say Rodriguez finally went too far, shooting a man three times outside the home of Rodriguez’s son in the Village of Kendale, another small enclave less than a mile from his own home where neighbors also have long complained about his tirades and threats. Rodriguez was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Witnesses told police Rodriguez, 66, followed in his car as Jose Rey and his wife Lissette walked their dog. He parked his car on a swale, flashed his lights and revved his engine, the arrest affidavit claims, then confronted Rey about the dog defecating on his son’s lawn.
Rey took the dog home. By the time he returned, witnesses told police, Rodriguez had taken his shirt off and was ready for a fight. Police say he shot Rey three times on the sidewalk as Rey raised his arms and backpedaled. When Rey’s wife tried to comfort her husband, witnesses told police Rodriguez threatened her, too.
Rodriguez’s attorney Alan Ross filed a motion last week seeking bond for his client, and said Rodriguez was standing his ground from a potential threat. Ross said despite no mention of it in the arrest affidavit, officers found a knife on the ground near the shooting scene.
The motion admits Rodriguez shot Rey, but says Rey started the argument and first came at Rodriguez with a knife. After the first bullet struck Rey, the motion says, Rey got up from the ground and Rodriguez was forced to fire twice more.
“When everything shakes out, this is going to be a justifiable use of force,” said Ross. “They did find another weapon at the scene.”
Perez said police found a knife, but don’t know where it came from, and aren’t willing to comment on it until after speaking with Rey. The 52-year-old salesman, whose wife works in event marketing at the Miami Herald, underwent several surgeries and remains at Kendall Regional Medical Center.
“Nobody knows where it came from,” Perez said. “But he parked his car and waited for the victim. And he was armed. That’s premeditated.”
No one answered the door during several visits to Rodriguez’s home, 11490 SW 103rd St., last week. A Florida Gator welcome mat lay crooked outside, next to a Cuban flag in a planter.
His son, also Omar Rodriguez, couldn’t be reached for comment. No one responded to several visits at the home and the mailbox was overflowing. A sign on an oak tree on the front lawn just a few feet from where Rey was shot reads: “Please clean up after your pet.”
An impressive school record
The motion filed by Ross says Rodriguez, who came to Miami from Cuba at the age of 12, has an impressive academic history and has held a number of jobs. Raised in Little Havana, he graduated from Edison Senior High School in 1967. The motion says he graduated from the University of Florida, earned a master’s degree at St. Thomas University and graduated from Drake University law school. He has worked for Eastern Airlines, for Dynair and as a paralegal.
Other federal records show he attended Nova Southeastern University law school in 1980, then filed a civil rights lawsuit after being denied admission to the Florida Bar because he refused to foot the bill for a psychiatric evaluation. One 1987 psychiatric evaluation in the case reported he was an amateur boxer who once got into a fight at a college dance because “another guy kept bumping into his girl.” It also found no “evidence of a major psychiatric disturbance.”
The case, in which Rodriguez sued the bar’s executive director, John Moore, and bar examiner Joseph Matthews, was tossed in 1993 — with the court citing a growing list of arrests and legal problems.
“The board was faced with investigating several prior criminal charges, both felonies and misdemeanors, as well as numerous prior civil lawsuits of which Rodriguez...had been a party,” the federal district court in Tallahassee found.
Machete and pizza
It was only the beginning of Rodriguez’s brushes with the law. Florida Department of Law Enforcement show four arrests since 1970, not including the latest charges.
His first documented clashes with neighbors dated to 1990s, when he lived in Coral Gables. One neighbor even wrote to then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, saying Rodriguez said he had guns, would declare “war” on neighbors, screamed in the street and once threatened a lawn worker with a machete. “We are afraid to come out of our homes as we feel that he may machine gun us one of these days.”
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to battery on a police officer in 1994 and got probation. Investigators suspected, but could never prove, that he began calling in bogus child-abuse allegations against Coral Gables police officers.
In 1998, he was charged with doing the same to one his former lawyers. Rodriguez sent an anonymous, handwritten complaint to the Department of Children & Families — and a police expert matched it to his handwriting. He was put on probation for stalking.
In October 2000, a Gables police officer who lived in Pinecrest was so concerned that he warned his teenage son to report any sighting of the man. Rodriguez did show up at the home — to deliver a Papa John’s pizza. The pizza was sent to the crime lab to check for poison. The results were negative.
Rodriguez was again charged with stalking but it turned out the encounter was a fluke. He actually was working as a pizza deliveryman and the case was dropped.
The pattern repeated once he moved to Kendall, neighbors say.
The streets of Glen Cove look like any suburb USA. But behind many doors, residents near his home greet guests on intercoms while watching on state-of-the-art surveillance cameras, sometimes behind locked gates — security some say was installed because of Rodriguez.
“It’s just insanity,” said one of neighbors who would not allow his name in print.
He said Rodriguez would patrol the neighborhood, calling in bogus violations to code enforcers or complaints to police that could take months to untangle. “He walks around looking at people’s homes, then he goes away. An hour later the police are there. He’s dangerous.”
In March, Rodriguez filed a handwritten civil suit against Lourdes and Sergio Garcia, accusing them of slander and libel for speaking ill of him to others. He accused them of filing false police reports against him and of “joining forces” with police “big wigs” and other “crime-watch bullies,” to torment him.
The Garcias referred questions to attorney Robert Kuntz, who said the couple’s countersuit told the real story. It states that Rodriguez’s goal was clearly to “inflict as much pain as possible, and indulge his tinfoil-hat conspiracies regarding his neighbors and the Miami-Dade police.”
Kuntz said Rodriguez has filed frivolous restraining orders and defamation lawsuits against the couple dating back to 2002. At one point, Kuntz said, Rodriguez convinced Miami-Dade County Animal Services to investigate the Garcias’ home, claiming they were illegally neutering animals. Court records show the couple believe Rodriguez once slashed their tires, another time left a dead cat on the swale outside their home and threatened Sergio Garcia, saying, “I’m going to kill you.” Later, Kuntz told the court, Rodriguez stalked Lourdes Garcia to a nail salon, then keyed her car.
Another neighbor, also too scared to give his name, called Rodriguez a “terrible guy.”
“At a birthday party across the street there was a car parked on the swale once, and he wanted to fight the guy,” said the neighbor. He said Rodriguez once threatened the driver of a lunch truck when a neighbor was redoing his driveway.
“I’ve told my daughter to never, ever, go near that house,” the neighbor said.