During the darkest months of winter, half of Canada flees to South Florida. So you'd think police would have some respect for the maple-syrup-guzzling visitors who fuel the local economy through spring break.
That's not what one pair of sisters from Toronto found in Miami Beach last month. The young women say two Beach cops assaulted them while hurling insults such as "bitches," "sluts," and "dirty Canadians."
Not very neighborly, eh?
Miami Beach Police Officers Eduard Alba and William Beeker allegedly gave Canadian tourists Angelina and Michelle Mastrangelo a nightmare before Christmas they will never forget.
Shortly before 10 p.m. December 23, the six-year Miami Beach Police veterans arrested the Mastrangelos for allegedly acting belligerently and refusing their commands to leave the Ritz-Carlton at 17th Street and Lincoln Road. But the siblings and their mother are accusing Alba and Beeker of false arrest, roughing them up, and insulting them with derogatory slurs.
"We are so glad we are back in Toronto," mom Sharon Carpenter says. "Those officers are disgusting. They completely ruined our trip."
The ugly confrontation began after the Mastrangelos had finished bar-hopping on Lincoln Road and headed to the beach, where they met three dudes with marijuana.
Because the evening was windy, the group huddled near the beachside entrance to the Ritz-Carlton. The siblings claim they were smoking cigarettes while the male trio puffed on a spliff. "They were smoking weed, not us," Michelle insists. "Two cops approached us because apparently we were on private property."
The malodorous burning of marijuana attracted Alba and Beeker, who asked the Mastrangelos and their newfound friends for identification and an explanation for why they were loitering on private property. Here is where the cop version and the Mastrangelo version diverge.
Angelina, 24, alleges that when she stood up, Beeker told her to "sit the fuck down, bitch." When she refused, he pushed her against a wall, pulled her to the ground, flipped her onto her stomach, and cuffed her, Angelina relays.
"He grabbed my sister by one arm and yanked her up," says Michelle, who is four years younger. "He dragged her to his cop car, threw her against the car, and told her: 'You are in my playground now, bitch.'" Michelle says Alba needlessly pointed his Taser at her.
Angelina was charged with resisting without violence, and Michelle was charged with disorderly intoxication, resisting without violence, and criminal mischief. While the officers were trying to arrest one of the men for pot possession, Alba and Beeker allege Michelle and Angelina "became irate, yelling and screaming." The sisters refused to comply with the officers' commands to leave the premises, Beeker wrote. He claims that Angelina "stood up and approached in an aggressive and threatening manner" and that "both officers felt in immediate jeopardy for their personal safety."
The cops also arrested one of the men, a homeless 18-year-old named Jodee Hopkins, for pot possession but let the other two leave, Michelle alleges.
The officers took the sisters to the Miami Beach Police station before booking them into the Miami-Dade County pretrial detention center. At the station, Michelle claims, Alba called her sister "Miss Piggy" and "fat bitch" when she told him her weight. "Alba also called us sluts, cunts, and dirty Canadians," Michelle says. "He told the other male cops not to talk to us because they would get HIV."
A few minutes later, Michelle allegedly refused assistance from a female officer to use the bathroom and urinated on herself while sitting in a chair. "I told the female officer that I was not going to let her pull my tampon out of me," Michelle explains. "I sat there and peed myself while the male officers were giving me dirty looks and laughing at me."
The sisters were transported to the county jail, where they broke down. "We had to take off all our clothes, including our bras and underwear," Michelle says. "They made us put on flimsy orange jumpsuits. Yet the jail is freezing cold. I got really sick because my sister and I take anxiety meds. They wouldn't give us anything. I threw up in front of all these girls in the cell."
During the sisters' psychiatric evaluations, Michelle says, she was hyperventilating so much that Angelina tried to calm her. "The guard didn't care," Michelle gripes. "She told us to stop talking. Then she made me stand in the freezing-cold hallway because I asked why other people were allowed to talk."
Meanwhile, their mother, Carpenter, had to scramble to find out what jail her daughters had been transported to, she says. When she arrived at the pretrial detention center, she still didn't know why Angelina and Michelle had been arrested. "The lady I spoke to knew their bond was $3,000, but she couldn't tell me what the charges were," Carpenter says. "When I finally found out they had been charged with resisting arrest without violence, I was shocked."
Carpenter says her daughters had never been arrested before. The family has vacationed in Miami Beach during the holidays for the past six years without a problem. On their most recent excursion, they had paid $3,078 to rent a condo at 1662 Lincoln Ct. for one week. "My kids own a spa in Toronto," she says. "They have never been in trouble with the police."
A bondsman approached Carpenter and offered to help free the young women for a $150 fee. "I had to wake my sister up in Toronto and ask her to put the $3,150 for the bail on her credit card," Carpenter says. "When my daughters got back to the condo, they looked terrible. They were covered in bruises and were bawling their eyes out."
On Christmas Day, Carpenter, Angelina, Michelle, and their 16-year-old sister kept their plans to go to Disney World. "The whole trip was about taking my youngest daughter to Disney," Carpenter laments. "But it just wasn't the same. We didn't have any fun."
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Upon returning from Orlando, Carpenter and her daughters filed a complaint at the police station against Alba and Beeker. "My daughter Michelle has been waking up every night crying her eyes out," Carpenter says. "Angelina cries every time she talks about it, which is why she has Michelle tell most of the story. This has traumatized them forever. I'm never, ever in my life going back to Miami."
Meanwhile, Miami Beach Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez says Alba, Beeker, and the department won't comment because the matter is under investigation. However, Hernandez says the sisters didn't follow through on their allegations.
"When it came time for [Angelina and Michelle] to give a formal sworn statement, they refused," Hernandez says. "We also have video and audio at the station, so we hear and see everything."