Death Do Us Part

A murder-suicide left Hialeah Gardens in shock. There were warning signs.

Gomez was suspended for two days.

During the next three years, Gomez regularly missed shifts and off-duty security details, Hialeah Gardens Police Chief Van Toth says. He verbally reprimanded Gomez several times. "The guy did some great things while he was here. Did he have some bumps? We all have," Chief Toth says. "When you're in the business long enough, you're going to make mistakes."

Months before Gomez filed divorce papers on June 5, Hialeah Gardens Police brass knew he and his wife were splitting up. They also were aware the separation wasn't harmonious. Even before the divorce was finalized, Gomez left his family's home and moved in with his new fiancée, Bernet.

Robert Gomez poses with his K-9, Kelly
Courtesy of Lazaro M. Cabrera
Robert Gomez poses with his K-9, Kelly

On March 26, Gomez explained his absence during one shift in a memo to Chief Toth: "As you know, I am going through a nasty divorce. I did not work on [March 16] because my soon-to-be ex-wife did not let me see my two girls for the last two Tuesdays, and I called and left messages on her house phone and her cellular phone in an attempt to at least speak to my daughters. I did not speak to my daughters for several days. I desperately needed to see my attorney to clear up my custody issues."

Brenda Gomez could not be reached for comment.

On May 13, six weeks before the murder-suicide, police brass found Gomez and a friend, fellow officer Vicente Amor, chatting inside a McDonald's on Hialeah Gardens Boulevard. Both were on duty. Gomez told dispatchers he was responding to a call for a K-9 officer.

Chief Toth suspended Gomez for 80 hours, demoted him from a field training officer, and took away his dog Kelly.

Some cops thought taking away his dog during a time of personal tribulations was not only insensitive but also irresponsible. "It's disappointing to me that the department could not have been more understanding," says Cabrera, the K-9 trainer. "Taking away his dog when he was having so many problems at home — I can see now where Robert was when he did what he did."

"There are going to be people who question the punishment," Chief Toth says. "I bet one-quarter of this department doesn't agree with my decision to ... take away his K-9 duties, but if I had to ask my department what they thought of every punishment I give, I'd be in trouble. It's a tough part of the job, but I need to make sure that officers learn from punishments."

Gomez was without his daughters in his personal life and without his dog in his professional life.

Some time during the night of Monday, June 26, at home in his new Hialeah Gardens residence, Gomez picked up his police-issued Glock. He shot Bernet, killing her, and then turned the gun on himself.

Although Toth knew Gomez was having trouble in his personal life, he had no reason to suspect his veteran officer was dangerous to himself or others. "It was a shock to all of us," Toth says. "It's kind of like your family. I don't have a 300-man department. Everyone here sees everybody else day in and day out. It's a tragedy."

Miami-Dade Police are scheduled to provide Chief Toth with a final report of the investigation September 5.

Kelly is now assigned to an officer at the neighboring Hialeah Police Department.

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