It's 4:42 a.m. Saturday, August 27, when one, two, three, four, five police cars on westbound MacArthur Causeway simultaneously flash their blue lights. Perhaps a carnivorous sea turtle has emerged from Biscayne Bay. Maybe a volcano has risen from the depths. Or Diddy has landed in his Buck Rogers backpack.
We should be so lucky. They're here for us.
I'm comfortably ensconced alone in the back seat of a white 2003 Land Rover Discovery, and I know how much I've had to drink tonight -- five Bacardi Limóns on the rocks and one vodka soda, all compliments of various corporate sponsors at MTV Video Music Award events. But I can't vouch for the now nervous driver, Manuel Aguilar. He pulls over and turns off the engine. A moment of silence follows, then the stern order of a disembodied female voice through a bullhorn. "Driver, exit the vehicle and walk backward from the car with your hands in the air," it says. When he turns around in disbelief, she repeats, with an edge, "I said backward. "
Slowly my friend takes fifteen paces backward.
Wait -- I squint. Are those guns? And now he's kneeling, an officer handcuffing him. In the front seat, my friend Mazik mutters a few obscenities. Again the bullhorn summons: "Front passenger ... ," and he's out the door, hands skyward. I watch my two companions disappear into a blue-lit vortex.
Finally, I'm told to put my hands in the air -- and I'm too scared to bother closing the car door when I exit. There are at least a half-dozen firearms aimed at me, peeking out from behind bullet-proof windows and open doors, fingers on triggers. I walk backward slowly, carefully, conscious of the eerie stillness. I can hear the palm trees rustle.
The bullhorn tells me to kneel. I kneel. A lady cop in shorts snaps a pair of handcuffs on my wrists. She pats me down, searches my untidy purse. She leads me by the elbow to the back of a squad car, where I sit next to a pizza box.
Miami Beach police were out in force VMA weekend. Only 24 hours after my friends and I were stopped, someone plugged rapper Suge Knight. Now the celebrities have returned to Beverly Hills and the tourists to Short Hills (New Jersey). The liquor bottles are empty and the award parties just drunken memories. But out there on I-395, in the nebulous hours between night and day, I learned that the Beach can get ugly. So did many others. What follows is a list of the best run-ins with the law during VMA weekend.
Saturday 1:53 a.m., Mansion, 1235 Washington Ave.: Marcus Andrews, age 23, of Miami, is cut in the mouth by flying bottles in the VIP area. Nobody is arrested.
2:17 a.m., First Street and Collins Avenue: Plantation resident Wilbur Martinez, 41 years old, backs into a parking spot and strikes a pedestrian with his black 2005 Hummer H2. Police note that Martinez has "droopy eyelids" and charge him with driving under the influence.
4:31 a.m., Seventh Street and Washington Avenue: Shots are fired from a silver Range Rover eleven minutes before my friends and I are stopped. A Winchester casing is recovered at the scene. Suspects are "probably" white Latin males. Silver Range Rover, White Land Rover. Hell, it's dark out.
4:40 a.m., MacArthur Causeway: Another Range Rover (white) is pulled over. Michelle Garcia and Alisa Casey, both females in their midtwenties, dressed in "halter top/jeans," get the Rover treatment.
4:45 a.m., MacArthur Causeway: The policewoman is asking me questions:
"Where are you coming from?" The Shore Club.
"Did anybody get in a fight?" There was a little tiff at the club.
"Were there weapons involved?" I certainly didn't have any weapons.
"Did your friends have weapons?" I didn't think so.
4:47 a.m., MacArthur Causeway: The lady cop leaves me alone with the pizza box.
6:36 a.m., 22nd Street and the Miami Beach Boardwalk: Police respond to a call regarding "four or five men fighting with sticks." One juvenile is taken into custody for battery and resisting arrest.
8:00 a.m., First Street and Ocean Drive: Raymond Jones, age 28, of Chicago, wakes up in the street, his wallet and $6000 diamond Rolex missing. He "claims he fell asleep on the public street," cops say. "When he awoke, the above items were gone. Victim did not hear, see, or feel anything during his slumber. Victim did not call the police immediately but took a cab first. When asked why he did not call police as soon as he woke up, victim stated, 'I don't know. I'm from Chicago.'"
12:41 p.m., Eighth Street and Euclid Avenue: José Garcia, age 57, and Enna Dieppa, age 43, both residents of Miami Beach, observe 23-year-old Weston resident Michelle Grant removing items from the trunk of Garcia's Geo Prizm.
Garcia: "What do you think you're doing?"
Grant: "This is my Chevy Lumina. Leave me alone."
Grant is, well, arrested.
2:55 p.m., Seacoast Suites Hotel, 5101 Collins Ave.: Harold Pracht, 56 years old, of Munich, Germany, descends from his room to visit with family by the pool. Upon attempting to reenter the lobby, he discovers it is locked. As is only natural, Pracht kicks in the glass door.
6:21 p.m., 41st Street and Collins Avenue: A rather vague incident report describes 34-year-old Jack Googer III of College Park, Georgia, as "Possibly involved in rap battle Re: Young Jeezy Group." No arrest.
8:44 p.m., Fifth Street and Washington Avenue: Traffic on eastbound MacArthur comes to a halt while four police cruisers surround oversize mobile billboards advertising Busta Rhymes and other artists. Four people are arrested for driving the tractor-trailers while "repeatedly honking." Calvin Bennett, 42 years old, of Opa-locka, complains that the record label told them to do it.
Sunday, 12:42 a.m., The Shore Club, 1901 Collins Ave.: Suge Knight is shot in the leg. Whatever.
1:38 a.m., crobar, 1445 Washington Ave.: Jason Geller, resident of Glencove, New York, and one year short of legal drinking age, is caught trying to sneak in a side door. When stopped, Geller exercises winning charm by throwing a full trash can at a bouncer. Like Cinderella, he loses his shoe in the process. When police arrive, Geller (in very un-Cinderella-like fashion) refuses to leave without it. He finally removes his other shoe and throws it at an officer. Geller is charged with resisting arrest and battery. The thrown shoe is impounded.
3:00 a.m., Nikki Beach, 1 Ocean Dr.: A patron splits his tab -- some on a debit card, some in cash -- and presents a forged Maryland driver's license with the name Julian Cecil Christian. When confronted by bar staff, "Christian" presents 71 counterfeit $100 bills and then runs. No arrest.
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3:40 a.m., Angel Ultra Lounge, 247 23rd St.: Steve Alvarez, age 24, of Miami is charged with "robbery by sudden snatching" when he is discovered with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka (over)valued at $275. The giveaway: The silver pour nozzle is still in place.
12:16 p.m., Fifth Street and Jefferson Avenue: A concerned resident hails police when 23-year-old Winsen Timothe of Fort Lauderdale is observed dancing atop his car to music officers describe as "over 100 feet audible." Upon seeing the authorities, Winsen climbs down and drives away, but cops pull him over and pinch him for loud music. Winsen's friend, Kerry Charles, 22 years old, of Hollywood, is a little slow hiding a joint in the back seat. He's popped for possession of marijuana.
Monday, 5:05 a.m., Mansion, 1235 Washington Ave.: Ramar Clash, a 27-year-old Arlington, Virginia resident, refuses to move out of the way of a vehicle trying to exit the valet parking area of the club. He's nabbed for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. During a telephone call to Clash later in the week, he says, "I was blocking a car?" and adds, "I don't think I can really discuss that."
As Bob Dylan once crooned: "It ain't me you're looking for." The cops didn't arrest me as they did Clash. In fact they didn't even take my name. No, within fifteen minutes of getting pulled over, we were staving off hangovers with empanadas at La Carreta, awaiting a reasonable hour to call our friends with an excellent tale of Miami.