To Serve and Protect and Intimidate

A school teacher is beaten senseless by Miami Beach police, then his life is allegedly threatened, now he's gone

By curious coincidence, Miami Beach emergency operators received a call April 14 at 2:30 a.m. reporting a suspicious person in an apartment building -- Berry's very own building at 4100 Collins Ave. Even more coincidental, the suspicious person was reported to be outside apartment 509, only two doors down the hallway from Berry's #505. Records show the caller told 911 he'd been threatened recently and he feared the person or persons who had just tried his door handle might be the same suspects.

According to the police department's dispatch log, four squad cars descended on 4100 Collins. However, none of the responding officers -- José Careaga, Martin Dionne, Anthony L. Callan, and Newell G. Wilder -- filed an incident report explaining what transpired at the apartment building. (Miami Beach Police Department procedures don't require incident reports every time units are dispatched.) Efforts by New Times to contact the occupant of apartment 509 were unsuccessful. It's apparent, nevertheless, that several officers were sent to Berry's apartment building, and likely to his floor, about the time he says two cops threatened his life.

Berry points out another coincidence: The alarming late-night encounter took place just one day before he was scheduled to be deposed as part of the lawsuit he and Taisha Auguste had filed. Berry did attend his deposition, but he has been on the run ever since. He didn't return to his job at DCF except to resign April 29, and he has avoided Miami Beach altogether. "I want to live to tell my story, go to trial, and get my justice," he says. "I don't feel I should be terrorized in my home because I want due process."

Miami Beach officials -- from the police department, manager's office, and legal department -- will not comment owing to the pending litigation. But Robert Switkes, the private attorney hired by the city to represent the three officers, categorically denies Berry's allegations. Officers Moraga, Payne, and Rojo never called Berry a "nigger" or any other slur, he asserts, adding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Berry and Auguste in 2001. Says Switkes: "This is a case of someone who was caught in a criminal act, somehow beat the system, and is now falling back on the race card as a means to improve his financial status."

Speaking from an undisclosed location outside Miami-Dade County, Berry scoffs at Switkes's charge he is using the "race card" for financial gain. "Man, I was cruising, waiting for my day in court like everyone else who goes through the system," he says. "I had a new job. I was back on the Beach. Why would I give that up to lie about cops barging into my apartment, threatening to kill me, and forcing me to run for my life? Who would put themselves through that shit? That's what a crazy person does -- and I know I'm not crazy."

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