Remember that movie Falling Down, where Michael Douglas goes on a violent rampage against the everyday nuisances and obstacles of urban life? If you believe a police account, Miami-Dade Public Schools elementary substitute Rolanda Benjamin is Miami's real-life William Foster -- although, thankfully, instead of an arsenal, teach was armed only with a bottle of water.
Just after 11 a.m. September 22, Miami Parking Authority enforcement officer Sham Jaglal was overseeing the towing of Benjamin's Chevy Impala, which was parked in the courthouse district at 1300 NW 14th Ave. She owed a whopping $706.60 for unpaid parking citations. But Benjamin's car had a special disabling security system that made it impossible to tow without the keys, she later explained, so Jaglal struggled to load it onto a truck.
That's when 26-year-old Carol City native Benjamin came out of a nearby courthouse -- where she had been taking care of her tickets, she says -- to find the enforcement officer trying to impound her car. According to a police report, the substitute teacher became irate. Grabbing a water bottle from her car, she "first squeezed/splashed water on the victim's face and uniform shirt," the report reads, and then "pushed [Jaglal] in the chest area in an attempt to move his city-issued vehicle from its parked position to enable her to move her vehicle and leave the location."
That's not the way Benjamin remembers it. According to her, when she refused to give Jaglal the keys to her car, he became the aggressor. "He got all up on me, saying, 'Oh, you're not going to give me the keys?'" Benjamin recalls. "I told him: 'Back up out of my face.'"
That's when the officer pushed Benjamin, prompting her to perform the Poland Spring baptism. Says Benjamin: "I poured my water on him and said, 'You got the nerve to put your hands on a lady. You're going to jail!'"
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Indeed, the teacher says it was she who called the cops -- but when they arrived at the scene, "the police walked directly past me and to the parking officer. Of course they're going to believe what he says, because he works for the county."
Benjamin was charged with battery on a parking enforcement specialist -- a felony. She'll face trial today, her 26th birthday. She's already lost her main cause: Cops confiscated her keys, and her car was towed anyway. She says she paid nearly $800 to release it from the impound, plus $600 in court costs.
Reached on his cell phone, enforcement officer Jaglal told Riptide: "I'm not allowed to comment."
Benjamin says she'll fight the charge. "Me go to jail for battery? Me?" she questions incredulously. "If I would've battered him, you'd know this. He'd have bruises."