Kill two men in four days under questionable circumstances. Get caught with drugs in your system and suspended from work.
Walk away from it all with $17,242.46.
Not a bad deal, right?
That's exactly how much Adam Tavss, the former Miami Beach cop, earned from taxpayers when he quietly resigned from the police force in late November amidst an indefinite suspension over a failed drug test.
Families of the two men Tavss shot on duty last June are fuming that city rules didn't prevent the wayward officer from earning his full payout from unused vacation and sick time and from his own pension fund.
"It's wrong all the way around," says Samer Shehada, whose brother, Husein, was shot and killed by Tavss. "I'm happy he's not a police officer any more, but he shouldn't be earning money on the way out."
Det. Juan Sanchez, a Miami Beach PD spokesman, declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations into the shootings.
Ramiro Inguanzo, director of human resources for the City of Miami Beach, says the payouts are standard for any police officer. "Legally, you're entitled to be paid for unused time, even if you're terminated for cause," he says.
Tavss's fall from grace began on June 14, when he confronted Samer and Husein - tourists from the Washington, D.C. area - outside Twist nightclub near 11th and Washington in South Beach. A surveillance video outside the club captures the two brothers raising their arms and turning before Husein collapses as Tavss's bullets strike him in the chest.
Police later said that the brothers were looking to pick a fight and that they appeared to have weapons under their shirts. But no guns were found at the scene.
Four days later, Tavss was back on duty. Before his first shift was out, he shot dead Lawrence McCoy Jr., a 29-year-old semi-homeless man who allegedly stole a cab and drove the wrong way down the MacArthur Causeway. Tavss said McCoy was armed, but, again, no weapon was found at the scene. A gun was later fished out of Biscayne Bay, but police have been unable to definitively tie it to McCoy.
Miami Beach PD stood behind Tavss, a 34-year-old with three years on the force. But his credibility took a hit when his personnel file showed that a female colleague accused him of using cocaine at a Christmas party in 2007.
Then, in September, Tavss failed a drug test for marijuana. Chief Carlos Noriega suspended the officer indefinitely.
On Nov. 20, Tavss, who earned a $56,833.66 salary, submitted his resignation. When he left, he picked up $3,092.34, before taxes, for 80 unused hours of annual leave and 51 hours of sick time. Tavss got another $14,150.12 when he closed out his pension fund.
Lawyer John Contini, who represents the McCoy and Shehada families, says Tavss's resignation won't stop a civil suit against the force over the deaths.
"The Miami Beach PD ... failed to run a proper background check, failed to properly train him, failed to supervise him, (and) failed to discipline him," Contini says. "Firing one trigger-happy cop won't cut it."
Adds Autumn Romero, McCoy's sister: "We want criminal charges."
Tavss' lawyer, Gene Gibbons, didn't respond to multiple calls and an email.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.