The Question That Won't Die

A mild-mannered U.S. Customs inspector is shot to death. Police call it suicide. Friends and family say thatís inconceivable.

One thing troubled Andreu, though, and it wasn't Enstice's allegations of incomplete police work. "The thing that I don't like is, after [the paramedics] rolled him over, the gun was still in his hand," Andreu says. "Normally the gun falls out because of recoil." But that's not conclusive evidence, according to Andreu: "If it's not a suicide, and I think it could very well be, they'll never know unless the guy confesses."

For years Evans and Bober have wondered what really happened that day. "It got around really fast -- everybody has a radio," Evans recalls. "They said that he committed suicide, and I just said, 'No way.'"

Sam Weber
Sam Weber

Bober knew Berkofsky for twenty years. They'd worked together at the World Trade Center in New York, and their families were close: "Our kids were born at about the same time, we both came down here from New York. It was, you know, one of those things."

Bober has been skeptical of the investigation into his friend's death since the day it happened. "I think they did a horrible job," he says. "They wrapped the whole thing up in about ten hours. They came to my house that night and told me my friend committed suicide. That's it. They were done."

Berkofsky never told Bober about the problems at work, but Evans was pulled into the dispute before the shooting. "At the time, I was a steward with the union and Ruth Casal came to me with a complaint," she recounts. "Ruth is very smart and good at the computer, but she wasn't the hardest worker and she was pregnant. Marrero-Colon spent a lot of time watching her."

The ex-military man was preoccupied with Casal's performance. According to interviews conducted by Miami-Dade homicide detectives and Marrero-Colon's own words to police the day of the incident, he was a man who felt his standards were generally higher than others. His supervisor, Diane Georges, told police that in November 1998 a union member approached her about Marrero-Colon. According to police reports: "[Georges] was told that Marrero-Colon was coming in to work early and working while not getting paid overtime. She stated that he would monitor other workers, often commenting on whether they would work up to 'Customs Service standards.'"

Three things about Casal set Marrero-Colon off: He believed she wasn't working hard enough, he thought her removal of footwear in the office was unprofessional, and he spotted her putting her stocking feet on the desk, a serious breach of office etiquette.

In early December Casal met with Georges and requested a transfer. She liked the work and she liked all her other co-workers, but Marrero-Colon was making her life miserable. A few hours later, as Georges was trying to figure out what to do about the situation, she received a startling phone call. According to police reports: "Later that day Georges stated that she received a call from Inspector Marrero-Colon questioning her as to the whereabouts of Ruth Casal. After speaking to Inspector Marrero-Colon, Georges then realized that all the reports about his behavior were just confirmed by the phone call."

Everyone around Marrero-Colon, including Berkofsky, told him to cool down and not act like a supervisor, but the messages went unheeded. Even a reprimand from Georges and the threat of harassment claims couldn't convince Marrero-Colon that he was in the wrong.

From the second police interview:

Marrero-Colon: "The union representatives -- they compiled all of that information and they told me that she maybe can press some charges on me as harassment because I was not a supervisor to, I guess, overlook of the workload in the office and quality."

Police: "They said that you weren't a supervisor and you could not oversee her work. Is that what they told you?"

Marrero-Colon: "That's what they mentioned to me, yes."

Police: "How did you respond to that?"

Marrero-Colon: "I respond that I had a high grade of standards and that if I was going to be working in that office, I expected that each and every one of us share the same amount of work."

Marrero-Colon's eventual response was to stop speaking to everyone at the office, except when he had to. Nothing was resolved, and finally, on January 6, Berkofsky asked supervisor Diane Georges to pay a visit to the Free Zone office.

That morning, before Georges arrived, senior inspector Lorraine Kennedy asked Marrero-Colon what he thought of her job performance. Marrero-Colon didn't know it at the time, but Kennedy had formally complained about him to Georges. Kennedy had a history with Marrero-Colon: Shortly after he was assigned to the Miami Free Zone in 1997, he questioned Kennedy's authority to sign certain documents. Kennedy was proven correct but was angry at Marrero-Colon for challenging her. She told police that after a meeting with supervisors, who backed her up and told him he was wrong, Marrero-Colon approached her in the office and "cruelly told her that he knew what was wrong with her, and continued to state, 'I know what you need.'" Kennedy said Marrero-Colon taunted her until she cried, then never bothered her again.

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