Delusions of Dogma

A town is gripped by bitter accusations, bogus arrests, rumors of violence, canine carnage, and general mayhem

Roy Thomas McDade, a 60-year-old mortgage broker, lives in the Village of Biscayne Park, a suburban oasis of some 3500 residents tucked between Miami Shores and North Miami. He and his wife Jane, who is also 60 and an insurance company executive, moved into the village back in 1975 and bought a three-bedroom Mediterranean-style house with lush landscaping at NE Seventh Avenue and 113th Street. "We looked in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Miami Shores, and Biscayne Park," Roy recalls. "We settled here because the taxes were low and because Biscayne Park is truly beautiful and laid-back." Indeed, since its incorporation in 1933, Biscayne Park has been seducing families with the promise of tranquility and quality of life. A "bastion of peace in an otherwise busy world" is how Mayor Ted Walker describes the village on its Website. And the McDades, who paid $58,000 for their home, in which they raised two children, now sit on property worth between $350,000 and $400,000.

During the past four and a half years, however, life in Biscayne Park has turned downright ugly for the couple. Roy McDade claims he has been the victim of continual harassment by Village of Biscayne Park Police, including a false arrest March 25, after he ordered officers off his property. The harassment, he says, is ongoing reprisal for the campaign he has waged to oust police Chief Ronald Gotlin, who has been on the force since 1984 and was appointed chief in 1998.

McDade's ill will toward the chief began November 3, 2000, five days after McDade and his wife had a run-in with a 150-pound rottweiler named Buddy, who belongs to Catharine Childress, the former Biscayne Park mayor who served on the village commission that unanimously voted to appoint Gotlin police chief.

Jonathan Postal
Jane and Roy McDade grieve over dead dogs Jerry and Kismet
Jonathan Postal
Jane and Roy McDade grieve over dead dogs Jerry and Kismet

McDade and his wife are dog lovers too, and have owned seven American bulldogs over the past five years. About 7:00 a.m. October 30, 2000, Mr. and Mrs. McDade were walking two of their bulldogs, Bowie and Jerry, on NE 111th Street and Seventh Avenue, when they passed the Childress residence. Roy McDade says the rottweiler was in the street -- alone and off-leash -- when it charged at him, his wife, and their dogs, which were one-year-old pups at the time.

McDade says he and his wife backed away, kicking at the rottweiler to keep it at bay as it tried to attack their dogs, which were also off-leash. He says his wife scooped up Bowie and he cradled Jerry as they continued to step away. Buddy finally stopped tormenting them when the McDades and their canines reached the intersection of Seventh and Eighth avenues, about a half-block from the Childress house, Roy says. "He trotted away as if nothing had happened," he recalls. "We took our puppies home and called animal control." Not until that afternoon, he says, when an animal-control officer gave him a copy of the warning issued to the rottweiler's owner, did he learn the dog belonged to Childress.

Four days later, Al Childress, Catharine's husband, told Chief Gotlin an "unknown witness" had seen McDade pull a gun from his jeans pocket and point it at Buddy as if to shoot. According to an incident report, Childress told Gotlin that Buddy had gotten loose from the garage and was on the front lawn when the incident occurred.

Fifteen minutes after he spoke with Childress, Gotlin spotted McDade -- who was again walking his dogs off-leash, though not on the rottweiler's street, according to the chief's report -- and stopped him to get his account. "McDade said he was on the roadway [the day of the incident] and felt threatened," Gotlin wrote in his report. The chief warned McDade it was a felony to display a firearm recklessly in public. "I advised Roy McDade to refrain from such actions and he agreed," Gotlin wrote.

McDade, who does possess a license to carry a concealed weapon, denies the allegation in the report. "I never pulled a gun on that rottweiler," he says. "I didn't have anything in my pockets except my wallet." He's certain the police chief concocted the gun angle to punish him. "When he stopped me, he was very angry I'd filed a complaint about the ex-mayor's dog," McDade says. "She was one of his big supporters."

Gotlin ordered him not to walk his dogs on the same street where Childress lived. "I did as he told me to," McDade says. "After that, he tells me I need to have them on a leash, so I put them on a leash." The harassment continued, he maintains, even though he's not the only village homeowner who lets his dogs run off-leash. McDade claims, "One day [Gotlin] tells me, 'McDade, you just don't get it.' He says, 'I don't want you walking your dogs in Biscayne Park. If I or one of my officers see you walking your dogs, we'll arrest you and find something to charge you with.'"

Though Gotlin concedes he didn't corroborate the Childress statement regarding an "unknown witness," much less determine the identity of the person, the chief insists Roy McDade has blown that incident and several others out of proportion. "Al Childress, Catharine's husband, made a complaint," he explains during a recent interview inside the Thirties-era log cabin that serves as both the police headquarters and the village's administration building. "You'll see I documented it on an incident report, not an offense report. Although he was warned about improper display of a firearm, McDade was not charged with a crime. And that is where it ended for me."

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