"Cat owners can breathe a sigh of relief today."
That was Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez speaking in July of last year about the arrest of alleged "cat killer" Tyler Weinman. The 18-year-old was charged with 19 felony counts of animal cruelty after a score of dead cats was discovered near where he lived.
Seventeen months and a million dollar investigation later, the charges against Weinman have been dropped. But Alvarez, former director of Miami-Dade Police, is still defending the investigation.
"You can never say that it's a waste of taxpayers' money," he said today at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $100 million Miami Art Museum. "That's just the nature of police work."
The expensive and ultimately unproductive "cat killer" investigation isn't the first time Alvarez or the county has been accused of squandering tax dollars.
Alvarez is facing an historic recall campaign driven by voter anger over -- among other things -- raises for Miami-Dade employees, including a whopping 13 percent for county police. To meet a $444 million budget gap, however, the county instead raised taxes on homeowners.
The mayor also denied that Weinman was owed an apology over the investigation. Weinman, now 19, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric investigation, was under investigation for weeks, and even had an electronic tracking device attached to his car.
"Obviously, there was probable cause to make an arrest," Alvarez said. "We should be thankful that investigators didn't keep going after determining that there wasn't enough evidence against the suspect. That would have been a waste of resources."