Big Daddy Denial

The truth is all relative to Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños

Rollie indeed was arrested early on April 12, 1989. An account of that morning's events emerged from the sworn statements of several people. Among them:

•David Ecklund, a Fort Lauderdale Police sergeant who supervised Rollie's arrest

Altfield: Did you ... make contact with the Bolaños family?

Joe Forkan

Ecklund: [I] made a call to the family advising of the arrest of their son ... somewhere after or about six [in the morning].

•Obdulia Bolaños, the chief's wife and Rollie's mother

Mrs. Bolaños: I was awakened by a phone call.

Altfield: Who answered the phone?

Bolaños: I believe it was my husband.... I really don't remember much. It was a long time ago. I recall that obviously he was -- it was from officers and shortly thereafter he got up and left ... to work.... They were bringing Rollie down. I guess he [Bolaños Sr.] told me that. When the [police arrived at the house with Rollie] they asked for [Bolaños Sr.] and I said, 'He's not here. He went to work.' And then they asked me to please summon him to the house.

•Nannette Carnevale, Chief Bolaños's secretary at the Hialeah Police Department

Carnevale: I know that the chief at one point had to leave the office and advised me that he was going out. I received information that it was in reference to an auto theft and that it was high school kids. And Roly[sic] was in high school and --

Altfield: And this information that you received, was that from the chief?

Carnevale: Very briefly, yes.

Altfield: He told you, 'Nan, I got to go. Roly was arrested for an auto theft,' something to that effect?

Carnevale: Right.

According to the court file, Fort Lauderdale Det. Russell Suess drove to the Bolaños home with Rollie. Miami-Dade Dets. Les Cravens and John Pierce, who were investigating a series of auto thefts in Miami-Dade County, also headed to the chief's house.

Suess: We were going there to explain to the chief the circumstances of the arrest of his son. And to obtain further permission to use his son in a further investigation into other auto-theft cases.

Altfield: Was the chief there when you first arrived?

Suess: I think he came in right behind us.

Altfield: Did you sit down and have a discussion with him?

Suess: Yes we did.... We advised him [that] Rolando Jr. and two other individuals were arrested for the charge at that time, I believe, prowling and burglary.

Altfield: What else did you tell him?

Suess: That his son had admitted to us that he had been involved in a large ring of auto thefts where they would steal cars specifically for Dominican individuals, who would sell the cars for roughly $1000 apiece. And the son had told us, and this is the story related to the chief, how he would wake up at 2:00 in the morning, sneaking out his bedroom window and make sure he was back before 5:00 a.m., because he knew his father was an early riser.

•Det. Les Cravens confirmed the others' accounts.

Cravens: When I walked in the father was present, the mother was present.... Basically it was explained ... that their son had been arrested in Fort Lauderdale.

Altfield: Did they advise him what their son was arrested for?

Cravens: Yes. Absolutely.

The chief even gave his business card to Detective Suess. Ten years later Suess still had it handy and gave it to Altfield. On the back was a handwritten note: "Thank you for getting out of your way. Sorry for any problems caused you and the residents of Fort Lauderdale. RB."

Obdulia Bolaños: [My husband, Rollie, and the three police officers] sat down to speak and I went to the kitchen and made some coffee... At one point my husband got up and left and told me, you know, he had given permission, if you will, for Rollie to cooperate with the officers.

Luis Diaz, the administrative sergeant to Chief Bolaños's office between 1990 and 1994, also provided testimony in the case. A close friend of the Bolaños family, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1994.

Altfield: During the course of your relationship with the chief and his family, did you have a discussion at their home about specifically Rolando Jr.'s legal problems, as far as being arrested?

Diaz: I recall one conversation that comes to mind about the chief questioning the fact that Rolley[sic] might [not] be able to become a police officer because of an arrest he had as a juvenile for a stolen vehicle.

Altfield: Did the chief believe that his son, Rolando Jr., could [not] be a police officer because of this arrest for a stolen vehicle?

Diaz: He questioned, at the time, that he was going to be able to be a police officer.

After prosecutors closed their case against the chief, they alerted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which certifies police officers. That's not likely to have much effect. The commission has the same perjury standards as the State Attorney's Office.

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