About 1:30 a.m. on June 29 Daniel Walker, Jr., says he was driving through South Miami-Dade when a man in a burgundy sedan forced him to stop, pointed a pistol at him, and growled, "Don't move, nigger."
Before the 27-year-old baker could comply, the stranger smashed him in the face with the gun, dragged him from the car, threw him to the ground, and kicked him repeatedly. Accomplices put a headlock on Walker's 28-year-old passenger Shalresia Tomlin and hustled her into a second waiting vehicle.
As the two cars sped away, Walker lay curled on the pavement spitting up blood and teeth. He was sure the attackers were police and that they had arrested Tomlin.
He was wrong. The seven gun-wielding white men were not law-enforcement officers, he says. They were bail bondsmen hunting Tomlin for violating terms of her release from jail. In May authorities had charged her with shoplifting and fighting security guards at a South Miami-Dade Beall's outlet, then freed her after she paid $7500 bail. Walker had met Tomlin the night of the beating and had nothing to do with her case.
Tomlin, who was recently released from jail on another bond, confirms Walker's story. "I thought they were going to shoot him," she recounts.
Miami-Dade Police Det. Patricia Ares is looking into the assault. "This is an open investigation," she says. "Something did happen. Between what Walker and the witness, Tomlin, say, it's a very credible story."
Although Ares did not identify anyone involved in the incident, Tomlin claims she recognized Walker's attacker. She says his name is Albert Scaletti, a local bail bondsman. "He was calling my house all week," Tomlin says. Scaletti did not return three calls left at his office, which has the same address as A-Alternative Bail Bonds Release, Inc., Miami-Dade's largest bail-bond company. A-Alternative owner Jim Viola denies any knowledge of the incident. "I really don't know anything about it," Viola asserts. "She's not my client. I didn't write that bond; I didn't authorize anyone to go after her. Leave me out of it."
New Times featured Scaletti and Viola in a May 6 cover story ("Inside Job") about a failed corruption investigation. Officials had studied allegations Viola and Scaletti bribed corrections officers to funnel bond business their way, held prisoners against their will until they agreed to use Viola's companies, and used brutal tactics against people who violated their bonds. Neither Viola nor Scaletti has been charged with any crime in connection with the eight-year probe by state and federal authorities.
Yet Scaletti does have a criminal record. In 1998 he received a suspended sentence after police accused him of impersonating a police officer as part of a scam to obtain a discount on cell phones. And he's been charged three times with battery since 1984, but never convicted.
Tomlin says she contracted Gloria Pimentel to pay the bond. Pimentel's bond company, Jim and Gloria's Bail Bonds, lists the same address as A-Alternative, according to state records. A-Alternative is the only bond agency's name in Tomlin's court records. Pimentel did not return two phone messages from New Times.
Then there's Daniel Caceres, the executing agent who signed the bond. Caceres is licensed through A-Alternative. He says he knows nothing of the Walker incident.
But Walker and Tomlin have a clear recollection of the events. Indeed Walker, who now sips his dinner through a straw, lost eight teeth. Here is his version of events: After finishing his shift at the Publix in Homestead about 11:00 p.m., he met his friend Andrew Williams to play pool at a nearby bar. Following their game Williams requested a ride to Tomlin's home at 22240 SW 112th Ave. After they arrived, Williams, Walker, and Tomlin stood by the car talking.
"We were there like fifteen minutes, and this burgundy, it looked like a Cougar, with tinted windows passed by real slow," Walker says. "I know that in the times we're in now, that can be bad news. The girl, she acted scared. She asked me to take her to her cousin's house. Then I saw the Cougar take a left at the corner and the girl jumped into my car."
He agreed to give her a ride. As Walker pulled away from the curb, he noticed the sedan had circled around behind him. For several minutes he tried to lose the tail. Eventually he turned left on Route 216 near Monkey Jungle. Just then another car, which he describes as a new, gray Ford Taurus or Tempo, pulled in behind them. Tomlin became frightened. "She said, 'Go, go,! I don't want them to take me back to jail. I don't want them to take my kids,'" Walker recounts. He was startled to hear she was wanted. "Now, I'm thinking I'm in over my head. So I start slowing down," he recalls
That's when the car zoomed up and the driver pointed a chrome-plated nine-millimeter pistol at Walker. Four men in the car behind them and three men in the other vehicle spilled onto the street and surrounded Walker's car with guns drawn. "I'm staring right into this chrome nine, and this guy says, 'Don't move, you fucking nigger.' Then he grabbed the back of my head and rammed it into the gun. He knocked out five teeth. I felt them crushed in my mouth." (A dentist later pulled another three.)
Walker says he was thrown to the ground, where at least two of the men kicked him in the face and ribs. He claims he heard one of the men yell, "Get that nigger bitch!"
"I could see they yanked [Tomlin] out of the car," says Walker. "They had her in a headlock."
As Walker lay on the ground, he says at least two men kicked him, and one growled, "Look, nigger." As Walker looked up, he took a boot in the face. Then he caught a glance of his car keys being tossed into the bushes. After the men fled the scene, Walker found his keys, then called his mother on a cell phone. "I think I need to go to the hospital," he told her. Walker drove home and his mother rushed him to Columbia Deering Hospital. The medical staff asked him whether he had called police. "I explained I thought they were police that did this to me."
Someone at the hospital called Miami-Dade Police and Ofcr. Javier Ruiz showed up to interview Walker. It went badly. "I explained everything and [Ruiz] said, 'That's bullshit. If you don't tell me what happened, I'm going to take you to jail.'" Walker suspects Ruiz knew of his past run-ins with the law. Since 1990 Walker has been charged with eight crimes from loitering to robbery. His only conviction was in 1996 for cocaine possession. (Ruiz says he was initially suspicious of Walker's account, but denies swearing. Further investigation has changed his mind, he adds.)
Tomlin basically confirms Walker's narrative. She also contends that she glimpsed Albert Scaletti as the men grabbed her. He was pulling Walker from the car, holding a gun on him, and yelling, "You nigger piece of shit!" she recounts. "He called me that, too," she adds.
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Tomlin also says she asked Scaletti why he hit Walker. "He said he thought [Walker] might have a gun," she recalls. She also asked the bondsman why he insulted her. "He didn't know. He said he was sorry."
A couple of days after the incident, Tomlin says Scaletti asked her whether she talked to police about Walker. "At that point I hadn't," she says. A short time later, Detective Ares contacted Tomlin. "Then [Scaletti] said his boss didn't want to let me out because they found out I talked to the detective." She says she used a different bond company to get out of jail July 5.
Jim Viola terms the pair's description of events unlikely. "[Bondsmen] are professionals. They don't go around pummeling people for nothing," he offers.