A No-Class Operation

Something isn't right at Mays Middle School -- and it's not just because of that bomb threat

Miami-Dade County Police Department spokesman Ed Munn says county police had detained Bradley as a favor to school police, but released him three hours later, when, after repeated calls from county cops, the school police still hadn't shown up. "We had to cut the guy loose, because we really had nothing to hold him on other than the school police asking us to pick him up," reports Munn. "Later the [school police] captain started raising hell with us until he found out they hadn't shown up. Absolutely they dropped the ball."

As such bumbling efforts to nab a bomb-threat suspect suggest, the school police investigation on the whole was spotty at best. No one, apparently, asked several critical questions, such as why a person making a bomb threat would use his own name. "It obviously is unusual," acknowledges Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino, who heads the public corruption division, referring to the idea that such a caller would identify himself by name. "Anybody in law enforcement would think that."

Another question: Why would Bradley tell the 911 dispatcher he'd been a teacher at the school for thirteen years, when he'd only been there for three years? When later questioned in a deposition by Schwiep, the lead school police officer on the case admitted he had not attempted to verify the accuracy of the personal information the caller gave to the dispatcher. Bradley attributes the caller's flub to a simple misreading of a script, mistakenly seeing a "1" in front of the "3." School police officer Gil Ochoa also confirmed to the lawyer that school police made no attempt to play the audiotape for other school employees who knew Bradley. While officers had obtained a videotape from the Citgo gas station where the call originated, supposedly showing the pay phone at the time of the call, they said the tape quality was too poor to identify anyone.

Why didn't the school police make it to the airport Friday night until after Bradley had been released? According to depositions of school police officers taken by Bradley's attorney, they were trying to get their story straight first. Daryl Brown, a Mays school resource officer, stated that he and another officer, Danny Rivera, were back at the station writing up a report of what happened at the school. A sergeant made them wait until he got to the station to read the report, then he "told us to rewrite the report because something was wrong with it," Brown said. "He was saying that the way it was worded ... something was wrong with it." What that might be is unclear, as that report never made it into the record. What is clear is that Brown and Rivera were taken off the case that Monday, and it was assigned to Ochoa. According to statements later made by Ochoa, Brown was taken off the case because he was a young and inexperienced officer. Former security monitor Walter Phillips, who worked with Brown at the time, offers his own wild speculation: that the school principal and assistant principal didn't think they had enough influence over Brown to get the result they wanted. "They tried to make [Brown] do things he wouldn't do," he claims. "They called him Officer Yo-Yo. He was strictly by the book." Brown since has been transferred to another school. He did not return a phone call seeking comment from New Times.

Ochoa wrote in his arrest report that school police couldn't find Bradley over the weekend -- not until Bradley phoned them to find out what was happening. He said Bradley refused to come to the station to talk to police, telling a captain: "If you want, you are going to have to come and arrest me." Meanwhile Ochoa had collected written statements from Cooper and Kaloostian pinning the bomb threat squarely on Bradley. The school police talked to an assistant state attorney who told them they had probable cause to arrest Bradley. That Tuesday afternoon Ochoa and other officers arrested Bradley at his home. Bradley's lawyer bonded him out of Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center later the same day.

That's when Paul Schwiep, Bradley's attorney and a friend from church, went to work. Schwiep secured a copy of the 911 tape and listened to it with Bradley. "My first thought was it had to be a kid's prank," Bradley recalls. "It took me three times listening to it to get the voice. I said, ďThat's Phillips. That's Walter Phillips.'" Schwiep later played the tape for other school employees including security monitor Zachery Parker and band teacher Edward Gooding. Both signed affidavits stating the voice on the tape belonged to Phillips, not Bradley. Parker's affidavit included something extra. He remembered seeing Phillips running from the back of the school toward the front, in the moments just after the bomb threat was made but before principal Cooper evacuated the buildings.

Phillips discounts Parker's testimony. "Mr. Parker is a joke," Phillips maintains. "The boy got a fourteen-story building in his head, but the elevator only goes to the second floor."

Schwiep also called Phillips to his office. He laid out the evidence and presented a scenario. He suggested the State Attorney's Office might be willing to offer him immunity if he revealed who had asked him to set up Bradley. A stocky man in his midthirties, Phillips vaguely resembles a smaller, softer version of Mike Tyson. He has the overly friendly manner of a salesman and prides himself on being able to size up a situation quickly. When the lawyer pitched his proposal, Phillips recalls thinking, He must have thought I fell off the watermelon truck.

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