New Times has obtained the IA files for Jorge Mercado, the Miami Beach cop who fatally Tasered teenage tagger Israel Hernandez last week, and they ain't pretty.
The files show that Mercado arrested an old woman last year as she tried to navigate Memorial Day weekend traffic. In 2007, he punched a guy during a concert. Worst of all, he and fellow cops were accused of Tasering and beating an Iraq War veteran in 2008.
The only accusation that was sustained, however, was a 2008 investigation into overtime abuse among Miami Beach police officers.
Mercado has six IA cases: four were sent to New Times. Of the other two, one stems from him Tasering Hernandez and is currently open. The other involves a mysterious, substantiated violation of departmental drug testing procedures.
A MBPD spokesman said that the drug case was closed but could not be released because of HIPAA law governing personal medical information.
Of the four available IA files, the most disturbing is a 2008 case in which Mercado and several other cops were accused of needlessly Tasering and beating an Iraq War veteran and his friend.
According to a letter they sent to their congressman, New Jersey natives Luis Maldonado and Randy Vega were in South Beach to celebrate Vega's safe return from Iraq. The military buddies went to Mango's on Ocean Drive for some drinks. The bar was crowded, however, and they decided to leave.
But on the way out, Vega accidentally bumped into a bar worker. She told bouncers to grab the friends before they left, and the bouncers followed them to their hotel nearby.
"Our pursuers continued to forcefully bang on the door, demanding that we 'Open the f-cking door," Maldonado wrote. Instead, Vega dialed 911.
Minutes later, Mercado and three other Miami Beach cops burst into the room after using a hotel master key.
"Upon entry and without a word, I was hit in the face by the police officers," Maldonado wrote. While two cops allegedly beat him, the other two Tasered Vega, then beat him on his neck and back.
But it was Vega and Maldonado who were arrested on counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. All those charges were eventually dropped.
The two military members wrote their congressman, New Jersey representative Jose Serrano, to complain. But the investigation ended when they dropped their complaints.
A year before Mercado was accused of Tasering and beating Vega without cause, he admitted to punching a man while attending a concert.
Mercado and another concert-goer, Juan Dapena, got into an argument in the bathroom at the Dade County Auditorium. Mercado accidentally bumped into Dapena's wife on the way to the restroom. Dapena followed him there, calling Mercado a "dirty-ass pig" and demanding an apology. Both men were at least three beers deep.
Dapena accused Mercado of punching him twice in the face, breaking his nose, then using "some type of martial arts move and flipped him onto the restroom floor" until fellow cops came.
Mercado admitted to punching Dapena but said he felt threatened after the man angrily approached him from behind as he was taking a piss. Mercado was exonerated.
Most recently, Mercado arrested 59-year-old Ines Flax after she tried to get to her home at 1500 Ocean Drive during Memorial Day weekend 2012.
Flax had already been driving in circles for half an hour because of police traffic loops when she spotted Mercado manning a barricade at 16th Street and Alton Road.
She tried unsuccessfully to get his attention to ask if she could turn onto 16th Street. "Mrs. Flax stated that she was frustrated and just wanted to get home, but Officer Mercado didn't care," the report says.
So she called MBPD's non-emergency hotline and asked for help. The operator told to approach Mercado and show him her local ID.
But when she got out of her car, Mercado arrested her.
Flax was released on a promise to appear, and the charges were later dropped. The IA complaint against Mercado, meanwhile, was unsubstantiated.
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The lengthiest IA case is a 2008 investigation into overtime abuses by Miami Beach Police officers. Mercado was one of nine officers investigated after an internal audit discovered that his Crime Suppression Team (CST) had been paid overtime for 29 months costing $583,544.
Police investigators concluded that no theft had occurred, but did punish two of Mercado's sergeants for poor supervision. No criminal charges were filed.