Rayan Rodriguez just wanted to play a few rounds of dominoes in Máximo Gómez Park — better known as Calle Ocho's famous Domino Park — where tourists line up all day to snap photos of viejitos slapping tiles down on the park's tables.
But instead of snagging a table, Rodriguez was punched in the face by the City of Miami employee in charge of the park. And then that worker, 44-year-old Amado Rubio, kicked him repeatedly as he lay curled up on the ground.
Rubio was quickly arrested, charged with felony battery, and fired by the city — but now taxpayers could be on the hook over the vicious assault. Rodriguez is suing Rubio and the city in Miami-Dade Civil Court because the city should have known he had a violent temper, the lawsuit alleges.
Rodriguez's attorney didn't return messages to comment on this story; Miami officials don't comment on ongoing lawsuits, and it's not clear whether Rubio has an attorney yet.
Miami's most famous spot for domino games traces its history to 1961, when Rene Janero fled Fidel Castro's revolution and landed in Little Havana. Janero and some friends began playing dominoes in a dirt lot on Calle Ocho, and word spread among other exilios that it was a prime location for the game.
“We got the land, placed an old cart here, word spread, and out surged the Domino Park you see now,” Janero told the Miami Herald in 2015. The park averages at least 200 tourists and 850 players per day, the Herald reported in that profile.
Rodriguez aimed to join the games January 23, 2015. He later told police he approached Rubio, who was in charge of the park's tables, to ask for a spot to play.
Rubio told him, "You have to wait," multiple witnesses later told police, and then — when Rodriguez again asked for a spot — yelled, "I'm the boss and you have to wait."
When Rodriguez didn't back down, Rubio cold-cocked him on the right side of his face, leaving a half-inch cut under his eye, according to a police report. Then Rubio kicked him several times as he lay on the ground.
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An elderly woman ran into the street to flag down an officer, who quickly arrested Rubio. The parks employee claimed Rodriguez had reached into the window of his small office to steal an ID card that would entitle him to a place at a domino table and then cursed at him when Rubio demanded he return it.
But Rubio didn't deny hitting him in response, though he insisted he hadn't kicked him.
The parks department fired Rubio, who was a part-time employee, shortly after his arrest, a city spokesperson tells New Times. Prosecutors charged him with felony assault and battery, but the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor three months later. Rubio later agreed to take an anger management course and pay $600 in exchange for prosecutors' deferring the charges.
In his lawsuit, filed this past September 28, Rodriguez alleges that the city was negligent in hiring Rubio and that he's suffered lasting physical and mental damage from the attack. The city has yet to respond in court.