A History of Violence

p>Just before 9:30 p.m. July 13, Officer Eric Guzman flashed his lights and pulled over next to a litter-strewn grass field on NW Fifth Avenue, a few blocks north of the Miami River.

Guzman, a five-year veteran of the Miami Police Department, had spotted a man who matched the description of a robbery suspect. As the officer tried to arrest him, a scuffle broke out. Guzman fired three shots. A semi-homeless 27-year-old man named Kiana Sean Lamb died on the sidewalk.

Lamb's death faded quickly from the public eye. He had a long arrest record, including a conviction for selling coke, and police have had trouble stirring up any witnesses to the shooting. An internal investigation still drags on.

But regardless of whether Lamb's death was justified, Guzman's personal records — which New Times recently obtained — show the officer has a history of using force on suspects.

In his five years as a cop, Guzman injured people during arrests 20 times — and 11 of those cases have happened in just the past two and a half years. Since 2007, Guzman also was the subject of three citizen complaints, shot himself in the foot during a SWAT raid, and earned a formal reprimand and counseling session.

Guzman serves on Miami's K-9 unit, which recently has been under fire from Miami's police review panel for the number of injuries its dogs inflict. Guzman's canine, Ares, has bitten three people since January.

One of the citizen complaints against Guzman came in January 2008. Janesha Brookins, an 18-year-old from Model City, was walking home through Charles Hadley Park with a 15-year-old cousin when a police chase sped by.

When Brookins reached her block of NW 51st Street, Guzman was manning a police barrier. Brookins's cousin brushed passed the police tape, and Guzman became enraged, she says. The officer slammed the 15-year-old on the hood of his cruiser.

According to Brookins, when she intervened, Guzman told her: "Back the fuck up!" and then tackled her against the car, smashing her head against his side-view mirror in the process.

"He had a real bad temper. He was really nasty to us," Brookins says.

A police review eventually found Brookins and her cousin's complaints "inconclusive" in May 2008. Other officers on the scene told investigators they didn't see Guzman mistreat the girls. But a doctor confirmed Brookins suffered an eye injury.

She says the department should have taken her complaints more seriously. "They should have done something then and there and gotten him off the force before he hurt somebody else," says Brookins, who's studying to become a medical assistant at ATI College of Health in North Miami-Dade.

Guzman declined to comment for this story because of the ongoing investigation into Lamb's shooting.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink