A soldier wrongly beaten and arrested by Jorge Mercado -- the Miami Beach Police officer who Tasered teenage tagger Israel Hernandez before he died -- says he and another service member were forced to quash their complaint in order to save their families and careers.
Luis Maldonado says he and buddy Randy Vega faced a painful choice: either drop their complaint against Mercado and three other Beach cops, or drop out of the military to fight the bogus charges.
"The overwhelmingly negative effects that such a pending court battle would have had on our careers was not something we could afford to endure or put our families through," Maldonado said in a letter to Riptide. "For these reasons, we chose to remove ourselves from this situation knowing full well that somewhere down the line, these police officers would eventually seriously injure or kill some other individual."
Maldonado and Vega were arrested in 2008 after Mercado and three other cops allegedly burst into their South Beach hotel room and began beating the two soldiers for no reason. Vega, just back from a stint in Iraq, was Tasered.
The two men were charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. But Maldonado and Vega wrote to a congressman in their native New Jersey to complain about police brutality.
The charges against the soldiers were eventually dismissed, but only when they agreed to drop their demand for an investigation into Mercado.
In his letter to Riptide, Maldonado slams "the degree of corruption that permeates Miami's law enforcement system" and says the deal was the only way to avoid ruining the soldiers' personal and professional lives.
But he also seems to have regrets, admitting he suspected that "these police officers would eventually seriously injure or kill some other individual" in the future.
Here is the full text of Maldonado's letter, as emailed to Riptide:
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I just read your article and am actually very happy that someone has decided to highlight the lack of integrity and professional conduct exhibited by Jorge Mercado and other officers who, unfortunately, continue to serve as sworn police officers. I would like to provide some additional information to illuminate the degree of corruption that permeates Miami's law enforcement system.
The charges that were levied against us were dropped for one reason alone. Randy and I signed an agreement, drafted by the district attorney, that essentially provided assurances to the police department that we would not go forward with any lawsuits in exchange for the charges being dropped.
Bear in mind that this was in our complete interests because we were in no position to pursue a prolonged court battle due to our overriding military obligations. In order to deal with an out-of-state court proceeding, we would be forced to be away from our place of duty while using personal leave and spending our own earnings. Additionally, the overwhelmingly negative effects that such a pending court battle would have had on our careers was not something we could afford to endure or put our families through.
For these reasons, we chose to remove ourselves from this situation knowing full well that somewhere down the line, these police officers would eventually seriously injure or kill some other individual.
Mercado has been put on leave while the FDLE conducts an independent review of the arrest that led to Hernandez's death. A group of MBPD officers chased the teen for nearly ten minutes after seeing him tagging an abandoned McDonald's, and then used a Taser on the young artist when he didn't obey commands to stop. Hernandez died moments later.