South Beach Menace

A scuffle minutes from the nation's sandy playground highlights its slimy underbelly

Though he was arrested on a felony charge of dealing in stolen property, after one night in jail the charges were dropped and he was released. Again.

At approximately 3:10 p.m. this past December 28, Vitorio Dattilo arrived at 559 Michigan. The rangy 54-year-old Italian was just dropping by to say hello to his pal Serrer at his second-floor apartment.

Serrer introduced Dattilo to Hipolito Hernandez and the three walked out onto a balcony. They were soon interrupted by Reynaldo Martin's screaming. "He was calling us pieces of shit as well as some of his other favorite insults," Serrer says. "Hipolito yelled at him to take it easy and that we didn't want any trouble with him."

Reynaldo Martin was arrested twelve times by Miami Beach police in 2006
Reynaldo Martin was arrested twelve times by Miami Beach police in 2006
Hector Serna was walking his three dogs when he saw Martin retrieve the knife he used to stab Hipolito Hernandez in the neck.
Hector Serna was walking his three dogs when he saw Martin retrieve the knife he used to stab Hipolito Hernandez in the neck.

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South Beach

Off of Ocean Drive and Collins Ave. between 5th and 22nd
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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Martin continued his tirade for about five minutes before disappearing behind the building. "I thought he left," Dattilo says. "But now I think that he went looking for the knife he had hidden in the dumpster."

(Hector Serna, the 36-year-old apartment manager at 545 Michigan, later informed Miami Beach detectives he saw Martin arm himself with the dagger. "He asked me not to call the cops," Serna says.)

Serrer and Hipolito Hernandez went downstairs to change a car battery. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Hernandez was mounting the stairs when he heard Martin yelling at him again. Only this time the street dweller sounded close.

In fact Martin was in the courtyard daring Hernandez to take him on.

What happened next isn't completely clear. "I think Hipolito saw the knife because he ran back upstairs and yelled at me to call the police," Serrer recounts. "Hipolito took a crowbar of mine and went downstairs again. I saw [Martin] lunge at Hipolito and then Hipolito swung the crowbar, grazing [Martin's] left arm."

During the throwdown, Hernandez repeatedly yelled, "Call the police! Call the police!"

By then Martin had plunged his weapon into Hernandez's neck. It caught his jugular. While still holding the crowbar Hernandez managed to grab Martin's hands and pin him to the ground, Dattilo says. "I saw all this blood covering [Martin's] face," he says. "I thought Hipolito had punched him so hard that [Martin] was injured. Later on, I realized it was the blood squirting out of Hipolito's neck."

At 3:23 p.m. a concerned citizen flagged down Miami Beach Police officer Arley Flaherty. He said two men were fighting in the courtyard. Flaherty drove to the alley, exited her marked unit, and ordered Hernandez and Martin to stop and raise their hands. They continued to struggle. Flaherty, unsure who was the aggressor, shot Hernandez in the back with her Taser.

Hernandez stepped back and released his grip. Officer Flaherty immediately spotted the black-handled knife in Martin's left hand, so she subdued him. He dropped the knife. The officer handcuffed Martin, who had welts all over his face.

By then Hernandez had walked back to the foot of the stairs, but he could not summon the strength to return to his apartment. "He had lost so much blood," Dattilo says. "But no one had noticed how badly he was hurt." In fact the first fire rescue truck, which arrived at 3:30 p.m., tended to Martin first.

At 3:36 p.m. the second fire rescue unit showed up on the scene. By then, Hernandez had lost half a pint of blood and a considerable amount of oxygen to his brain. "I really don't understand why it took them so long considering the fire station is just six blocks away," Serrer says.

Hernandez's girlfriend, Morales, was completely shocked. "One minute he's telling me that he's going to Walgreens to get some cigarettes," she says. "Then five minutes later, he is on the floor bleeding, and the cops are everywhere."


This past February 1 the sixth-floor courtroom of Miami-Dade County Court Judge Cristina Pereyra-Shumner was bustling with accused criminals awaiting arraignment. Among the hardened criminals sitting in the jury box was Martin, handcuffed to a scruffy black inmate. Both were dressed in orange prison uniforms.

For most of the hearing, Martin played with his neatly trimmed goatee and ran his fingers along the outline of his grim reaper tat. He appeared bored. State prosecutor Jason Jones had already dropped the attempted murder charge against Martin for stabbing Hernandez, but he was pressing ahead with an armed burglary count.

When Martin's name was finally called, he pled not guilty through a court-appointed translator. He declined comment for this article.

Four days earlier Isabel Morales had met with Jones, who relayed some unfortunate news. "He told me there was a possibility [Martin] could come out," Morales recalls. "I was like, 'How could this be possible?' The guy confessed on tape. It was premeditated."

According to Martin's arrest affidavit, he gave a sworn statement to Miami Beach detectives at 2:15 a.m. this past December 29. Martin stated, "I was going to cut him." Martin also acknowledged having "problems with the victim in the past." State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith said Martin also told the detectives he used the knife to defend himself from Hernandez's crowbar. "Witnesses at the scene support Martin's self-defense theory, that the victim swung the crowbar," Griffith says. "That makes it difficult to prove attempted murder without a reasonable doubt."

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