Man sought in rape and kidnapping escapes, is caught after three-hour chase

Ivan Zapata
Ivan Zapata

Police say Ivan Zapata got into a fight with his girlfriend at a $60 a night motel in Homestead last month, threw her under cold water in a shower and repeatedly raped her with a plunger. Then, they said, he spent the next month keeping her locked up in their home and burning her more than 20 times with cigarettes.

Police said Zapata, 21, was finally arrested Friday, but not before escaping from a police officer at a hospital, carjacking a Mercedes, ditching it, and getting a ride from a family member who finally helped turn him in. All while he was wearing a hospital gown and no shoes.

Late Friday afternoon Zapata hadn’t yet been booked into jail. Police said he was back at Kendall Regional Medical Center, where the almost three hours of theatrics began. They weren’t commenting on his past or more recent injuries.

“He was discharged [from the hospital] and the officer was getting ready to transport him,” said Miami-Dade police detective Robin Pinkard. “He struggled with the officer and was able to escape. We were able to set up a perimeter and we found him in a house.”

Miami Herald news partner CBS 4 reported Zapata was in the hospital after trying to kill himself, and that’s when his 20-year-old girlfriend contacted police and told them about their history.

Zapata, whose criminal history is lengthy, has been charged with sexual battery, aggravated battery and kidnapping. Police have not yet charged him for his almost three-hour romp through Kendall that had streets blocked off, dogs out, several police agencies searching, and helicopters flying.

Pinkard said Zapata, picked up by police Thursday night, was getting ready to leave Kendall Regional Medical Center at 11:40 a.m. when an officer was escorting him to a patrol car. Somehow he got away, ran to the parking garage and scared a woman there enough to get her keys and drive away in her black Mercedes.

A short while later police found the car abandoned near Florida International University at Southwest 107th Avenue and Eighth Street. After receiving word from Hialeah police and officers at the county’s Northwest District, a perimeter was set up between Southwest 127th and 137th avenues and Eighth and 18th streets.

FIU students were alerted through a campus-wide text that a man with a tattoo on his face and wearing a hospital gown and no shoes might be coming their way, and that he should be considered armed and dangerous.

Police, with a description of the car Zapata was now traveling in, soon spotted it. When they pulled it over, Zapata was gone, and a family member was driving the vehicle. At 2:22 p.m. police found Zapata hiding in a house inside the perimeter.

“A family member picked him up, but [Zapata] wasn’t in the car. He gave the location, we found him and took him back to the hospital,” said Pinkard.

Police said Zapata’s flight from Kendall Regional and the almost three-hour chase through Southwest Miami-Dade was prompted by a Dec. 15 fight he got into with his girlfriend at the Caribe Motel in Homestead. The arrest affidavit says that while at the hotel Zapata became angry at her when she said she wanted to see her mother.

He ordered her to get undressed and get into the bathroom, it says. Then, the report says, he began hitting her with the stick part of a toilet plunger, shoved her in the shower and raped her with the plunger.

Zapata’s girlfriend told police she spent the next month in fear for her life, getting punched over and over, burned with cigarettes, and warned she’d be killed if she tried to leave.

He threatened her “that if she left his side he would kill her,” the report said. When Zapata went to the hospital Thursday, his girlfriend finally got up enough nerve to leave and find help.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Zapata’s criminal past is lengthy and runs through several police agencies in the county. Several arrests dating back to 2008 are for driving infractions and marijuana possession.

But in 2008 he was also arrested by Miami-Dade police and charged with armed burglary and grand theft. Those charges were dropped. In February 2012 Zapata was again arrested, this time on charges of domestic violence. Those charges, too, were dropped. Two months later in April 2012 he was arrested and convicted of aggravated assault with a weapon and domestic battery, FDLE records show.

In May 2014 Zapata was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.