MIAMI (AP) — Ten times, South Florida police departments rejected George Miyares after he failed psychological, polygraph or background tests. He was investigated three times by Miami-Dade Corrections, which hired him as a guard, and cited for excessive use of force against an inmate in one case.
Despite that dubious record — detailed by Miyares himself in his handwritten application — he made the cut at the Village of Biscayne Park, which hired him as a reserve police officer.
Now, the 44-year-old Miyares is at the center of a federal lawsuit claiming that nine months after his hiring, he got into an early-morning confrontation that left two men beaten. One man says he suffered broken facial bones after Miyares slammed his head on a sidewalk.
Miyares was off-duty at the time and outside the village’s jurisdiction.
The Dec. 29, 2013, incident led to the arrest of two mechanics, Dennis Rosario and Reinaldo Santos-Nieves. All charges against both men were later dropped.
The lawsuit, originally filed last summer in Miami-Dade Circuit Court but moved to federal court earlier this month, names Miyares and Biscayne Park as co-defendants. It claims the Village was negligent in its hiring, “has a pattern and practice of hiring individuals that are not suitable for the position of police officer” and that the two men were falsely arrested after Miyares physically attacked them.
The suit, filed by Miami attorney Vincent Duffy on behalf of Rosario and Santos-Nieves, included a copy of Miyares’ original application with Biscayne Park, which in addition to the police rejections and corrections records, notes that he also was arrested twice as a teenager on charges of aggravated assault and filing a false police report.
Another time, according to the lawsuit, Miyares was disciplined by Miami-Dade County for impersonating a police officer and brandishing a firearm, while he worked for the Department of Corrections.
Miyares resigned from the Biscayne Park police force a week after the lawsuit was initially filed.
“He (Miyares) is a hard-working person committed to protecting the community. The evidence will show he acted appropriately,” said attorney Oscar Marrero, who represents Miyares.
Marrero said he couldn’t address the lawsuit directly because procedural rules limit what attorneys can discuss in any pending federal case. As for Miyares’s abrupt departure from Biscayne Park after the lawsuit was filed, Marrero called it “a mutual parting of the ways.”
In a response to federal filing, Biscayne Park argues that Miyares was not acting in his official duty as a village police officer when he interacted with Rosario and Santos-Nieves. The village also said that if a judge were to determine otherwise, it would matter little since Miyares acted “in good faith with sound discretion and with reasonable suspicion and or probable cause” and that his use of force was not excessive.
Scott Alexander, the Fort Lauderdale attorney representing the city would not comment on the specifics of the case.
It’s not the first time the police department in the small village of 3,000 people, nestled between Miami Shores and North Miami and west of Biscayne Boulevard, has made headlines.
In 2014, then-Village Manager Heidi Shafran accused Police Chief Ray Atesiano of borrowing thousands of dollars from an underling with promises to repay the loan through a combination of taxpayer-funded overtime and off-duty work. Atesiano, who resigned from his post after being suspended, denied he ever took the loans.
Court records show Rosario and Santos-Nieves were arrested two days before Christmas in 2013, while driving home early Sunday morning from a night out on Miami Beach. The two men were headed toward the city of Miami when they got into some type of confrontation along Interstate 395 with Miyares. He followed them to Little Havana before a Miami police officer eventually arrested the duo.
What’s in dispute is what happened between the time Miyares and the two men initially came into contact on the interstate and the 5:30 a.m. arrest of Rosario, 40, and Santos-Nieves, 43, in Little Havana.
Miyares says he was defending himself. He said one of the men pointed a gun at him while they were in their cars, so he followed them and when they finally came to a stop in Little Havana and got out of their vehicles, Rosario began kicking him in the mid-section.
Rosario and Santos-Nieves say they were just trying to get away from Miyares and that they had no idea he was a cop. The lawsuit argues that “Miyares falsely informed the city of Miami police that plaintiff Nieves had committed felony assault with a firearm.” Their attorney Duffy said the two were headed toward Rosario’s Brickell apartment after a night on South Beach.
At the same time, Miyares was headed home after working an off-duty shift at a Miami Beach nightclub. As a reserve in Biscayne Park, Miyares was paid and conducted normal police duties on a part-time basis. It also enabled him to take more lucrative off-duty jobs like the one he had just finished before he encountered Rosario and Santos-Nieves.
According to the police report, Miyares claimed that Santos-Nieves, who had a concealed-weapons permit, pointed a gun at him as their car pulled up next to him, then they tried to cut him off. He told the Miami police officer who made the arrest that he followed Rosario and Santos-Nieves until they crashed their car between Northwest Seventh and Eighth streets and 13th Avenue.
Miyares said Rosario got out of the car and approached him. That’s when Miyares said he identified himself as a police officer. Then, according to Miyares, as Rosario kicked the officer repeatedly in the chest, Santos-Nieves got out of the car with his gun. A nearby security guard saw what was happening, according to the police report, and came over and ordered Santos-Nieves to drop the gun.
Miyares then detained the two men before a Miami police officer showed up and made the arrests.
Duffy argues in the lawsuit that there was no probable cause to arrest his clients and that “Miyares brutalized Rosario and Nieves while detaining them, resulting in Rosario having several broken bones in his face due to Miyares smashing his face into the sidewalk” while his client was handcuffed.
Rosario was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. Santos-Nieves was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and resisting arrest.
Fourteen months later, prosecutors threw out the case. To this day, the charges stemming from their 2013 arrest remain the only blemishes on the duo’s otherwise clean criminal history, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show.
Marrero said Miyares is now working back at Miami-Dade Corrections.