Calling him a suspect in an ongoing murder investigation, the City of Miami fired Officer Adrian Rodriguez for administrative violations in June 2016. Rodriguez — who has never been charged in the 2007 killing in question — appealed his termination, and in May an arbitrator said he should get his job back.
Four months later, the city is now fighting that decision and asking a judge to overturn the ruling and to boot Rodriguez off the force.
"Most, if not all, people believe a police officer should not remain a police officer if he or she is a suspect in a homicide," city attorneys wrote in a petition filed late last month.
The decade-old case allegedly involving Rodriguez happened October 28, 2007, when Yosbel Millares, the manager of a Metro PCS store in Allapattah, was robbed and fatally shot by two armed men while closing for the night. Court documents say Rodriguez, a former employee at the store, was present that evening and had blocked in Millares' vehicle in the parking lot shortly before the shooting. The city has argued that Rodriguez knew who Millares was and knew he would be carrying a large amount of cash to the bank that night.
Rodriguez became a city cop in 2009, but on February 11, 2013, after investigators received a tip that Rodriguez and his father might have been involved in the shooting, detectives brought him in for questioning. When they revealed to Rodriguez that his dad was a person of interest in the killing; however, they say the young officer got upset and walked out of the interview, even calling his father to tip him off. He was suspended with pay two days later and then finally terminated last summer.
"By his own actions, Rodriguez continued to ensure that he remained a murder suspect," the city writes in court files. "To date, Rodriguez has never cooperated with homicide detectives."
At an arbitration hearing earlier this year where Rodriguez was fighting to get his job back, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent ten times. Police union lawyers argue the city has jumped to conclusions, presuming the officer's guilt simply because he refused to answer questions.
"The city’s position can be summed up as: Answer our questions related to our criminal investigation of you and waive your Fifth Amendment right — or we will fire you," Eugene Gibbons, an attorney for Rodriguez and the Fraternal Order of Police, writes in court documents.
Arbitrator Donald Spero ultimately ruled Rodriguez should be reinstated on the police force, but without back pay. The Miami Police Department did not respond to a request from New Times asking for Rodriguez's assignment or salary, but Gibbons says the city has yet to put him back on the payroll.
"They refuse to reinstate him as the arbitrator has ordered," Gibbons says. "They dismissed him because he exercised a constitutional right, plain and simple... That's pretty disturbing, and that should be disturbing for everybody."
An administrative hearing for the case has been scheduled for Tuesday morning. Though Gibbons says the city "fell asleep at the wheel" and filed its petition one day too late, City Attorney Victoria Méndez calls that argument a mere distraction.
"The union's argument is an attempt to divert attention from the merits of the city's case," she says. "We look forward to establishing that the arbitration award should be vacated."