(NBC6) While Miami Beach Police Officer Adam Tavss has been making headlines recently for shooting two men in four days, not much has been said about Miami Police Sgt. Juan E. Mendez.
That is, until the Miami New Times pointed out that he not only has killed four men during his 25-year career, but has racked up a whopping 92 complaints against him, mostly for abusive treatment, excessive use of force and discourtesy and a few for missing property.
But he hasn’t killed since 1999 when The Miami Herald named him as the Miami police officer with most kills; quite an accomplishment considering the Miami Police Department spent the ‘80s and ‘90s mired in corruption scandals where they were either killing drug dealers to steal their drugs or killing citizens and planting guns next to them.
In a 2002, when the Herald named him the deadliest cop in the state, he was quoted as saying:
“Make sure when you’re telling people I’m Florida’s deadliest cop that you also tell them I’m working in Florida’s deadliest city, on Florida’s deadliest streets, and on Florida’s deadliest shifts,” Mendez said at the time.”I do not go out there looking to shoot people.”
Mendez is still racking up citizen complaints, including one that went before the Civilian Investigative Panel last month in which he was accused of damaging a cell phone during an arrest.
He was cleared of that allegation as he has been in all four shootings and several questionable incidents, including one where he left a man paralyzed and another where he severely beat an off-duty Miami-Dade cop.
He has also cost taxpayers at least $900,000 in a 2006 settlement that went to the family of one of the men he killed. And an additional $550,000 for a 1993 settlement in which Mendez shot a security guard in a case of mistaken identity.
That former settlement stems from a 1999 incident in which Mendez killed a 19-year-old carjacking suspect named Antonio Butler in Overtown. Police cleared Mendez even though hundreds of protesters called it a “cold blooded murderer hiding behind a badge.”
In 1995, Mendez killed an armed suspect with two shotgun blasts in a Little Havana neighborhood. While police cleared him in that shooting, some residents had their doubts, especially the 71-year-old woman whose front window was shattered by Mendez’ shotgun pellets in front of the rocking chair she normally sat in to watch television.
In 1990, Mendez was charged with two felonies – and was even booked in the county jail – for allegedly beating a suspect with a walkie-talkie, then falsifying an official report to cover it up. But those charges were dropped after his accusers were indicted on unrelated charges and refused to testify against Mendez.
In 1987, Mendez came across Alfred Lee, a black man sitting in a car whom Mendez believed was rolling a joint. Lee told Mendez he was a cop. Mendez didn’t believe him.
Lee said that Mendez pistol-whipped him, so he sped off in his car. Mendez gave chase, calling other officers to assist him.
Lee wrecked his car and hopped out. A few officers shot at him. When they finally caught him, Mendez and other officers beat him severely, punching him in the face 20 times, on his body eight times and kicking him in the face.
Mendez and other officers continued beating him in jail.
Mendez and the officers were cleared of any wrong-doing in that case, despite the fact that an internal affairs committee recommended a lengthy suspension.
A year later, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Norman Gerstein admitted to reporters that helped keep this case hush-up because he feared how the black community would react.
This was during the riot-plagued ‘80s, after all.
While it appears Mendez may have mellowed his trigger-happy finger in recent years, he is finding it hard to live down his fiery reputation.
Even Civilian Investigative Panel member Janet McAliley, who has probably heard of a few abusive cops during her tenor, calls Mendez’s history, “unusual and disturbing.”