By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
First on the scene were two Miami-Dade County Police officers. Not far behind was school district officer Alicia Neal. The two county cops told Neal the witnesses' accounts about the episode. Neal began asking her own questions. Ford complained of neck soreness but said he didn't want Fire-Rescue. Neal then called school police detectives Niurka Echezabal and Daniel Schmerr to continue the investigation.
Before they left for the North Central facility, the school detectives spoke to their superiors at the investigative offices at Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center. Capt. Stephana Clark and a lieutenant told them that "Chief Monroe was aware of the situation and authorized the arrest(s) of any school board employee we deemed necessary," Echezabal wrote.
When the two detectives arrived, Neal and the county cops had already identified Davis as the suspect and Ford as the victim. The detectives interviewed all concerned. Ford, Echezabal wrote, was crying and "appeared rather shaken up." Their questions established that Davis had grabbed Ford and held him against his will, locking his arms under Ford's shoulders in the hold commonly known as a "full nelson."
The detectives called the State Attorney's Office specifically to review the battery statute, a misdemeanor. They determined they had probable cause to make an arrest.
Echezabal and Schmerr then confronted Davis in his office. By that time another party had appeared: James Monroe, then assistant superintendent for maintenance, and husband of Vivian. The detectives arrested Davis for battery. Davis said, "I did not batter anyone, I grabbed him." The detectives informed Davis of his Miranda rights -- including the right to remain silent -- but Davis went ahead and gave his account of what happened. He was good enough to demonstrate on Officer Neal his method for restraining Ford. Davis was then arrested. Neal handcuffed Davis, put him in her car, and left for the Miami-Dade County Jail.
Then things got weird. Stephana Clark paged Schmerr and ordered him to stop Neal from taking Davis to jail, "as she was talking to Chief Monroe on the other line," Echezabal wrote. After a stop at Lindsey Hopkins, Neal made it to the sally port of the jail and was about to bring Davis in to be booked when higher-ups reached her again and ordered her to wait.
As Neal sat at the jail, the following was happening, according to Echezabal: "Chief Monroe contacted witnesses in the case without our knowledge, along with Public Corruption ASA [Assistant State Attorney] Mark Smith and Joe Centerino [sic]. After their review of the facts of the cases as presented to them by Chief Monroe, she ordered the subject [Davis] released and transported to the site of arrest." Officer Neal carried out her orders.
Joe Centorino, head of the public-corruption division, remembers this case and confirms the account in the police report. He says the officers probably should have called his unit in the first place because the case involved a state employee in his workplace. He adds it was a little unusual to get a call from the chief of police, but notes police supervisors often call his office in similar cases. "I don't think we disagreed that there was probable cause [for the arrest]," Centorino says, "But it was our judgment this was not something that belonged in the criminal justice system."
Even weirder: A week after the episode the computer record of case E-03899 was updated. Ray Davis, who came within a hair's breadth of having a criminal record, was changed from the subject of the investigation to the victim. The case record now lists Ranis Ford, the erstwhile victim, as the alleged perpetrator. The record now reads that Ford "tried to steal an official document, and was directed not to take it. Offender took the document and proceeded to run out the door. Offender became disruptive, and had to be restrained."
The Ranis Ford-Ray Davis incident set several wheels in motion. Ford, for his part, filed for an injunction to keep Davis away from him. At a December hearing, the judge did not grant Ford's request, noting Ford could not make a case for "repeat violence" based upon one event. (Ford had been in domestic-violence court before. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm in 1997. According to the arrest form in this case, Ford drew a pistol during an argument with his wife on November 23, 1997. Their daughter called police. Prosecutors dropped the charges a month later.)
Within the ranks of the school cops, the unarrest served as the final straw for a number of them. They've expressed their displeasure by defecting from a Teamsters union seen as too soft on Monroe. "It hasn't been fair," grumbles Ofcr. Rafael Gomez, chief steward of the Teamsters. "The FOP [the new union] recruits by bashing Monroe. After that unarrest, ten people went out and jumped over to the FOP. They're benefiting from her incompetence."
Sgt. Ian Moffett and Ofcr. Carlos Fernandez of the FOP confirm that they've played up this incident -- mostly to call attention to the need for change at the top. If that helped them build membership in the meantime, so be it.