In July 2018, a Miami-area woman and her family members told a Miami Police officer that her estranged husband had followed her car in his vehicle, cut her off, pounded on the outside of her car, and even ripped off a windshield wiper, all because he wanted to see the separated couple's 10-month-old daughter.
But when MPD Officer Julio Martinez arrived, he not only failed to report the incident or arrest anyone, but also allegedly threatened to arrest the alleged victim's grandmother instead. In a public meeting last night, Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) said the officer's actions constituted "negligence of duty" and policy violations. The CIP says Martinez was hired in 2016 and has one complaint and one use-of-force incident listed in his personnel records.
For years, police departments have been criticized for failing to investigate domestic disputes properly or for outright making the situations worse. In a 2015 survey, the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that one-quarter of women who'd called the cops for help during domestic incidents or sexual assault said they would not call police a second time. More than 80 percent of the survey's participants said they were afraid the officers would either not believe them or do nothing to stop further violence.
The CIP, a panel staffed by members of the public, cannot formally discipline cops and can only verbally reprimand them. But, to put things mildly, the documents in Martinez's case don't paint the cop in a good light. According to public records obtained by the CIP, the woman — whom New Times is not naming because she is an alleged victim of domestic violence — was driving with her brother-in-law through Hialeah when her estranged husband arrived, parked in front of her vehicle, and cut her off. The husband allegedly got out of his car, began screaming, started hitting her car, and ripped off one of the windshield wipers. She says she was eventually able to maneuver her car out of the situation and drive to the city of Miami, where her mother lived.
During the alleged altercation, the husband apparently called 911 but hung up before speaking to a dispatcher. Several minutes later, however, records show the brother-in-law called the cops and told a dispatcher his brother was acting violently and erratically and said he wanted to ensure the alleged victim was safe. According to CIP records, Coral Gables Police received the calls and forwarded them to Miami Police. Officer Martinez was dispatched at 9:11 p.m.
When officers arrived at the house, Martinez began acting aggressively toward the alleged victim's family members, they say. The woman's mother alleges the officer lobbed insults at her in Spanish and threatened to have her arrested if she didn't let her estranged son-in-law see his child. (In statements to internal affairs, Martinez denied that claim.) In a statement to internal affairs, Martinez said that when he arrived at the house, the woman's ex appeared from behind some bushes and began screaming at his wife's family.
The victim says she repeatedly tried to explain to Martinez that her estranged husband had just attacked her car in Hialeah and was not in any state to see their baby. She says Martinez then accused her of bringing up the alleged domestic attack "because it was convenient" and said that because it occurred in Hialeah and not within Miami city limits, it didn't matter to him. (In fact, the husband later admitted to the CIP he had been "violent" but that Martinez had said that "whatever happened in Hialeah happened in Hialeah.") Multiple cops who eventually arrived on scene reported that the wife wept through much of the encounter.
Eventually, the cops demanded that the alleged victim bring her baby daughter outside despite the fact the 10-month-old was asleep. Reluctantly, the woman retrieved the child. She says she cried as she took the baby out in the rain. Then her husband turned around, said he did not want the child to see them like this, and left without being stopped by any of the officers on the scene. The woman then said she asked for a police report number and was told by Martinez that "nothing happened here" and no domestic-violence report would be created.
Thankfully, that wasn't quite true: Three days later, the woman filed a report with the Hialeah Police Department in which she formally alleged her estranged husband had stalked her in a car and broken off parts of the windshield.
Astoundingly, MPD's own internal affairs unit cleared Martinez of any wrongdoing in the incident — the unit did not sustain allegations of "discourtesy" or "improper procedure" against Martinez, who denies in any way mistreating the woman. But last night, the CIP laid into him and found he'd failed in his duty to document the incident and should never have let the estranged husband simply walk away from the scene.
The woman's husband heard her "attempt to tell Officer Martinez what had just occurred in Hialeah, but Officer Martinez would not hear it because it did not happen in the City of Miami," CIP staff members wrote. "[The ex] was surprised, but happy, when Officer Martinez failed to fully investigate what had taken place that day and if a crime had been committed. Officer Martinez refused to hear what had occurred just prior to his contact with [the couple] because it occurred outside the City of Miami, did not notify the City of Hialeah of a domestic related incident that occurred in their jurisdiction, and allowed [the man] to leave."