Delusions of Dogma
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.
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."
Yes, he says, he did inform McDade that county law requires he walk his dogs on a leash. But he did not ban McDade's dogs from walking in the village. True, one of his officers did tell McDade not to walk his dogs in the park at NE 114th Street and Ninth Avenue, where the Ed Burke Recreation Center is located. The park is off-limits to pets. "McDade stretched that to mean he couldn't walk the dogs anywhere in Biscayne Park. But I didn't tell him that. No one did. And he never bothered to clarify the situation with me."
Gotlin sighs deeply. "Of course it bothers me," the chief says of McDade's years-long efforts to get him fired. "But being in a position of authority, I'm used to having a bull's-eye on my back."
But McDade won't budge from his position. "The chief is lying!" he says, his voice rising with agitation. "I'll take truth serum! And I defy him to do the same thing!" He's so sure he'll be arrested if he walks his dogs within the village limits that he drives them miles away, to locations far from the eyes of Biscayne Park's finest.
McDade won't walk his dogs in Biscayne Park, he swears, until Gotlin is off the force. He tried to facilitate the chief's removal but failed in January 2004, when two of the commissioners McDade helped win election to the Biscayne Park Village Commission refused to deliver on promises to fire Gotlin. Since then, McDade laments, his best friend has betrayed him, the cops have falsely arrested him, and he has been slandered as a wife- and cop-beater in a series of events meant to discredit him among Biscayne Park property owners. Worst of all, two of his five dogs have died as a result of their exile. "My only concern now is beating the charges," he says. "If I do, I'm coming back to finish the job."
In the summer of 2003, Roy McDade -- still smarting every time he had to drive his dogs outside of Biscayne Park for their daily walks -- seized on an opportunity he thought would pave the way toward Gotlin's ouster. Several dozen other homeowners had grown disaffected with the five-member Biscayne Park Village Commission. Residents were upset with the village's aggressive code enforcement, wasteful spending, and lack of police presence on the streets. (Under the Biscayne Park charter, one commissioner is designated the ceremonial mayor while the others oversee four departments -- administration, police, public works, and recreation).
McDade and three other residents created the Village of Biscayne Park Homeowners Committee, which ran a five-candidate slate against three incumbent village commissioners in the Biscayne Park municipal elections December 2, 2003. Because the three candidates to receive the most votes would win commission seats, the committee was looking to stack the deck a bit in a field of eight.
McDade rallied neighbors and raised money for the slate, and on weekends the committee would hold packed meetings at the nearby Church of the Resurrection, where the group's candidates discussed their platform. In addition to promises of eliminating wasteful spending and increasing local police presence, they vowed to fire not only Chief Gotlin but also Sira Ramos, who ran the village's code enforcement. Ramos, who had prior experience working with the village's first code enforcement officer, was hired in 1999, at the recommendation of Chief Gotlin, and had since become the most reviled person in Biscayne Park, says Ronald Coyle, one of the committee's candidates. "She handed out something like 2800 code citations during the four-year period before we got elected," Coyle says. "People were angry." But more than that, he says, her hiring was a quid pro quo; she had lobbied the village commission to appoint Gotlin to his current position.
Throughout the campaign, Coyle recalls, McDade worked with one purpose: to get rid of Gotlin. "We all knew Roy's story with his dogs and the chief," he says. "I believe it. I know so many people who've been treated wrongfully by the police. Heck, I have firsthand experience." According to Miami-Dade criminal court records, Coyle was arrested by Biscayne Park Police in 1994 on a misdemeanor assault charge. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. In 1997, Biscayne Park Police arrested him again, this time on a felony assault charge. Prosecutors dropped that case before going to trial.
Coyle ran with other committee-supported candidates Rose De Merle, Judi Hamelburg, John Hornbuckle, and Ted Walker, McDade's best friend and next-door neighbor. Three of them -- Coyle, Hornbuckle, and Walker -- defeated incumbents Richard Ederr, Joe Lomazzo, and Michael Lynott. McDade became "the motor behind the machine that got us all elected," says Coyle. "Roy did everything, from calling the meetings to soliciting money for the campaign."
But a funny thing happened in the weeks after the election. Ted Walker, the last man McDade expected to turn on him, had a change of heart. Right up until Election Day, Coyle says, Walker was determined to fire the chief. Then, on January 6, 2004, the eve of the new commission's installation ceremony, Chief Gotlin met privately with the three newcomers and begged for his job.
Coyle later relayed what had happened to McDade, who immediately contacted his best friend. "I called Walker up and asked him why he didn't tell me about the meeting," McDade recalls. "He told me that I didn't need to know. And then he told me he was reconsidering his position about firing the chief." McDade reminded Walker that the chief's ouster was why he'd been elected. In fact, warned McDade, if Walker refused to fire the chief as his first official act, the homeowners committee would seek a recall.
Walker, who was designated mayor by the other commissioners during the installation ceremony, stood his ground. "These people wanted blood on the walls from the first day out," he says. "At our first meeting, in front of everybody, including the police chief, I told Roy that he was welcome to walk his dogs in Biscayne Park without fear of arrest. He continued to go outside the village. The man needs help."
McDade considered the reversal an act of treachery. Not only were they friends, but also he'd helped Walker financially. (According to the Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office, McDade has helped refinance three mortgages on Walker's house.) "My father once told me you're lucky if you can find five true friends in life," he says. "Ted was once considered a friend. I took this guy out of a watermelon patch and made him a commissioner."
Once the installation ceremony had concluded, Chief Gotlin took the podium and offered his resignation. "This past election was run on a platform of change," he said. "The main focus was change in the police department.... It's been a good ride for me here. Apparently it is time for me to move on." Coyle, Hornbuckle, and Walker voted to accept his resignation; the two incumbents -- John Anderson and David Goehl -- voted no.
Gotlin agreed to stay on as chief until the village commission named his successor. But two months later, McDade and Coyle began to wonder if the chief was going anywhere. He was still on the job, and the commission had not begun searching for a new police chief. At the village commission's monthly February meeting, Coyle nominated Biscayne Park Police Officer Enrique "Henry" Casabo for the position. The motion died by a four-to-one vote. As far as Coyle could tell, his committee-sponsored colleagues, Walker and Hornbuckle, had jumped ship. "We were elected to clean house," he says, "and we didn't."
On March 24, 2004, about three months after the election, Jane McDade, a petite woman with curly auburn hair, was tending to a litter of bulldog puppies in her garage around 10:00 p.m. Returning to the kitchen, she says, she tripped on a step and "went flying." She cut her lip open when her mouth slammed against the metal edge of the kitchen sink, which stood only a few feet from the doorway.
When she saw blood pouring from her mouth onto the floor, she became hysterical and asked her husband to take her to the hospital. "I got mad at Roy because he didn't want to take me to the hospital because we'd both had a few drinks that night," she recalls, leaning against an antique armoire in the McDade's living room. "He was paranoid about the police stopping him because of Gotlin."
So Mrs. McDade was angry and perhaps a bit tipsy when she dialed 911 for an ambulance. During the call, in fact, she never made a specific request of the emergency operator. According to the 911 tape, Roy McDade is heard telling his wife she's drunk, and she can be heard screaming, "Get away from me! Get away from me! I'm not fucking.... Oh, my God! I'm bleeding to death!"
By the time Biscayne Park Police officers had concluded their response to the 911 call, Roy McDade was under arrest on a felony count of assault and battery on his wife, two felony counts of battery on a law-enforcement officer, and two charges of resisting arrest with violence.
According to police reports, Officer Casabo and Sergeant Michael Marchese responded to the call. When they knocked on the McDades' front door, an "angry" and "agitated" Roy answered. The officer claimed there were welts and minor cuts on Roy's face. Casabo wrote that Mr. McDade said his wife had pushed, punched, and kicked him. He also called her a "drunk" who was "always intoxicated," according to Casabo's report.
Jane McDade soon appeared at the front door as well, holding a blood-soaked towel to her mouth. She "started yelling at both these officers to leave their property," Casabo wrote. "After numerous attempts to explain ... that we were just doing our job, and that we needed to investigate this offense, Mr. McDade attempted to close the front door." Marchese was holding the door open when Roy McDade allegedly grabbed him and pushed him backward. The policemen put him under arrest, charging him with battery, and as they were trying to place the handcuffs on McDade's wrists, according to Casabo's report, he "pushed [Marchese] and struck my hands while attempting to break free." After running down a hallway leading to a bedroom, he continued to resist the officers, Casabo said, and knocked Marchese's handcuffs and flashlight to the floor. The two cops called for assistance from an El Portal police officer, and they finally subdued McDade, who was first taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital and then to the county jail.
After her husband was hauled off, Jane allegedly admitted Roy had hit her. "Mrs. McDade, who stated it was Mr. McDade who had strucked [sic] her, refused to cooperate and refused medical treatment from the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue who arrived on the scene," Casabo wrote. "Mrs. McDade appeared to be under the influence of an unknown alcoholic substance."
Both officers also alleged they sustained injuries during their tussle with McDade. Casabo said he had injuries to his back, shoulder, and right hand; as a result, he filed a workers compensation claim and is currently off the job. Marchese, whose injuries were minor, returned to work the same evening.
Both McDades, however, dispute the police officers' version of events. Jane insists she was angry with Roy only because he wouldn't take her to the hospital. "He's never pulled a hair off me," she says, showing a visitor just how she flew face-first into the side of the sink. "They just barged in, saying they had to arrest somebody. They grabbed hold of Roy, and the next thing you know -- I kept telling them that Roy didn't do anything. I just wanted an ambulance because I'd hurt myself. It turned into a ridiculous situation."
Though she refused assistance from fire-rescue personnel, Jane McDade says, a neighbor drove her to North Shore Hospital. And, she adds, it didn't take long for her husband's enemies to capitalize on the evening's events. Waiting inside North Shore's emergency room were none other than Mayor Walker, Chief Gotlin, and the chief's top assistant, Lieutenant Mitchell Glansberg, who was toting a camera. She suspects they wanted to document her cut lip. "I told them I had nothing to say and walked out of the hospital," she exclaims. "They followed me out into the parking lot, trying to take pictures of my face." She subsequently went to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where doctors stitched up her lip.
Walker insists the decision to visit Mrs. McDade at the hospital was to get to the bottom of what happened. "I was concerned about Jane's well-being," he says of his next-door neighbor. "I tried to explain to her why it was necessary for her to cooperate in a criminal investigation." Gotlin says he showed up because he wanted more details about what led to his officers' injuries. The chief also defended the officers' decision to press the McDades about their injuries. "When the officers saw both spouses had apparent injuries," Gotlin says, "they have the right to investigate and ask questions."
"I say Gotlin and Walker are full of shit," says Commissioner Coyle, who remains loyal to McDade and the homeowners committee. "They went to see Jane with an ax to grind. Roy was a thorn in their asses. By making him look like a wife-beater, Walker and Gotlin can consolidate their power." Gotlin and Walker had no business at the hospital, he adds, because Roy was already in custody, "unless they were looking to persuade Jane to press charges against Roy." That wouldn't surprise him, he notes. They "wanted Roy out of the way."
When it became apparent Jane McDade was not going to press charges, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped the domestic battery charge against her husband. Prosecutors have also dropped one of the felony counts of battery on a police officer. Yet McDade still lives in fear of going to prison. "Gotlin doesn't want the State Attorney to plead out," he asserts. "They're going for the maximum sentence against me."
When he drives in Biscayne Park these days, he claims, village police follow him. "The other day Glansberg was driving north as I was driving south on Griffing Boulevard," he says. "He made a U-turn and starts following me. So I made a U-turn and I waved at him as I passed him."
On a recent evening, rain pounds a metal awning that extends over a large window at the rear of a one-bedroom cottage about two miles outside of Biscayne Park. Since his arrest, McDade has been living here. A freight train sounds a warning as it rounds the tracks behind the property. McDade's three bulldogs retreat into the house after greeting a visitor at the front door. Six-year-old, 125-pound Bowie, a brawny but docile beast, lies on a circular rug in the living room, chewing on a squeaky toy. One-year-olds Marino and Scarlet chase each other into the bedroom.
McDade is in the small kitchen, broiling eight pounds of chicken quarters. "I spend a good ten minutes taking all the bones off," McDade says. "And that's just their dinner." Atop the microwave are three piles of vitamins -- from A to fish oil to zinc -- which he has sorted for his pets. He opens a red binder lying on the counter and refers to some handwritten notes. "It's their daily log," he says, pointing to a recent entry. "I write down what they ate, how much exercise they had, and if they had to go to the vet."
In the study, the room with the large window, McDade pulls out several family albums filled with pictures of his dogs, including Marino and Scarlet's parents, Jerry and Kismet. One series of photographs shows McDade and his dogs out hunting and includes shots of Bowie and Jerry taking down a wild boar. On a large wooden end table sits a shrine to Jerry and Kismet. Framed photos and sympathy cards surround a three-foot-by-three-foot marble tombstone placed at the center of the table. The five-year-old dogs were killed by a train near Biscayne Boulevard and 167th Street on May 6, 2004. "Except for my children, I have never loved any living creature as much as I loved my dogs," McDade whimpers.
Since he could not walk his dogs in Biscayne Park, he says, he would often take Bowie, Jerry, and Kismet to the Ancient Spanish Monastery -- a medieval structure built in Segovia, Spain, that was dismantled and then reconstructed brick by brick in North Miami Beach in the Thirties -- on NE 167th Street and West Dixie Highway.
McDade says he always kept the dogs on leashes, except when he was working on their sit, stop, and stay commands. He was also training Jerry for competition. "I wanted perfection," he says, adding he spent $4000 to have Bowie and Jerry trained by a police K-9 specialist and another $500 on electronic dog collars.
On May 6, McDade was walking Bowie, Jerry, and Kismet a half-mile south of the monastery, near the railroad tracks that run parallel to Biscayne Boulevard. The right of way consists of the train tracks and a large grassy field. McDade says he was teaching Jerry to work on his "prance" routine when Kismet found an old heavy-duty workman's glove near the tracks. "She came over and slapped Jerry on the snout with the glove," he recalls. "That was her way of saying, 'Let's go play.'" Jerry and Kismet took off running, but Bowie stayed with his master. The oncoming train didn't sound a warning since it wasn't near a crossing. "I yelled and screamed," says McDade, who is now sobbing as he relives the awful moment, "but it was too late. I cried and cried for hours. I wanted to lay on the tracks and die too."
He cremated the dogs' remains, which he keeps in two wooden urns. He also dug a hole in the ground and placed a tombstone, an exact replica of the one in his cottage, near the tracks where they died. The tombstone is engraved with photos of the dogs. Jerry's epitaph reads: "The most loving and loved friend and companion. You will be remembered forever." Kismet's says: "Always our most affectionate, loving 'Kiss' and baby girl remain in our hearts forever."
Despite his recent misery, McDade avers if he beats the charges, he will move back home and begin a new campaign to fire Gotlin. "I'll do it for Jerry and Kismet," McDade says, "and for my own peace of mind."
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