Miami Beach Police Chief May Not Be Ultra's Security Savior

Still rocked by controversy over the near-fatal trampling of a security guard last month, Ultra Music Festival is turning to Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez to save its standing in downtown Miami.

The festival is seeking to assuage the City of Miami, where Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff have made moves to try to force Ultra out of Bayfront Park.

But that doesn't mean the marriage is made in heaven. Under Martinez, Miami Beach Police fatally Tasered a teenaged graffiti artist, roughed up a model, and beat up a Good Samaritan for coming to her aid. How will he handle Ultra?

Ultra couched the news, announced last week, as a move to fix whatever security problems remain at the giant EDM fest. "Chief Martinez has built a record of distinguished service in law enforcement," Russell Faibisch, one of Ultra's founders, said in a news release.

Martinez — a former Marine and Purple Heart recipient — is widely credited with calming a department that was dangerously out of control. In the months before he took over from then-Chief Carlos Noriega, Miami Beach cops nearly killed half a dozen innocent people.

During Memorial Day Weekend 2011, MBPD fired 116 bullets to stop drunk driver Raymond Herisse. But stray bullets also caught three bystanders, spawning mass litigation against the city.

A few months later, Miami Beach cop Derick Kuilan and his partner partied at the Clevelander while on duty. Kuilan later drunkenly drove his ATV around the beach with a bachelorette on the back, then hit a couple lying on the sand — again nearly killing them and prompting a lawsuit.

Compared to Noriega, Martinez's tenure has been calm. Cops haven't fired a bullet since he took over, he boasted when announcing his retirement.

But two scandals show that his legacy isn't exactly straightforward.

On June 26 of last year, Andrew Mossberg spotted what he thought was a robbery in progress. When the 50-year-old saw someone strike a model in the face and rifle through her purse, Mossberg tried to intervene.

But the suspect turned out to be MBPD cop Philippe Archer. And instead of thanking the Good Samaritan, the detective allegedly kicked him in the head.

Five weeks later, MBPD was again accused of abuse of force. On August 6, more than half a dozen Miami Beach cops chased 18-year-old Israel "Reefa" Hernandez for seven minutes for spray-painting an abandoned McDonald's. When they caught him, they fatally Tasered him, then allegedly high-fived over the dying teen.

Reefa's family has sued the city over the incident, which was first reported by New Times.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.