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| Police |

UM Doctor Says Miami PD Is "Trying to Cover" for Cop Who Broke Policy

MPD Sgt. Mario Menegazzo questions Dr. Armen Henderson outside of Henderson's Flagami home.EXPAND
MPD Sgt. Mario Menegazzo questions Dr. Armen Henderson outside of Henderson's Flagami home.
Screenshot via Dr. Armen Henderson

Update, September 1: Four months after finding that Sgt. Mario Menegazzo broke departmental orders by yelling in Dr. Armen Henderson's face without a facemask and not calling in his actions to dispatch, the Miami Police Department has finally released records of the disciplinary action to New Times. For his acts of impropriety and breaking departmental rules, Menegazzo received a written reprimand in his personnel file. He was not suspended or given any further discipline. A copy of the disciplinary report is embedded at the bottom of this post.

A memo released by the Miami Police Department (MPD) shows that the officer who handcuffed a University of Miami doctor last month was found in violation of several departmental policies.

Last week, New Times reported that Sgt. Mario Menegazzo was the officer caught on camera handcuffing Dr. Armen Henderson outside his home in Flagami back in April. Henderson was loading supplies for the homeless into a van outside the house; Menegazzo said he believed the doctor was engaged in illegal dumping.

After the story was published, MPD confirmed that Menegazzo was the officer involved and released a closeout memo detailing its own investigation into the incident.

Internal investigators sustained three allegations against Menegazzo: one for improper procedure for not wearing a facemask or gloves while interacting with Henderson during the COVID-19 pandemic, one for discourtesy for yelling at Henderson and pointing in his face, and another for improper procedure for not calling in the investigative stop to police dispatch.

Menegazzo was exonerated on another allegation of improper procedure for handcuffing Henderson because the officer explicitly stated that he was investigating reports of illegal dumping, which is a misdemeanor crime. According to departmental policies, Menegazzo had the right to detain Henderson until his initial suspicion was dispelled.

Henderson tells New Times that Menegazzo's exoneration on that last count was deeply disappointing.

"I'm very surprised to see that they found the handcuffing was OK. That's just ridiculous," the doctor says.

The investigative memo also makes note of Henderson's assertion in multiple media reports that he had been racially profiled. Internal investigators say they posed the question to Menegazzo, who denied any profiling.

"Sergeant Menegazzo stated that he did not stop Dr. Henderson because he was Black, and further advised that if Dr. Henderson had been White or Hispanic, he would have acted in the same manner," states the memo.

Henderson says that finding is equally ludicrous.

"I don't believe that. The first question he asked me was if I lived there," says Henderson, adding that if he were white or Hispanic, he never would have been asked that question. "They are trying to cover themselves by saying the handcuffing was OK and that he wasn't racially profiling."

According to MPD, an internal review of Menegazzo's history of self-initiated police activity showed no pattern of the sergeant targeting the black community.

The internal affairs investigators did not interview Henderson or his wife, who declined to speak with police, referring questions to their attorney.

Henderson tells New Times he wasn't sure if the investigator who contacted him was with internal affairs or if it was just another cop trying to dig into the situation. MPD Chief Jorge Colina also offered to speak with Henderson over coffee, which the doctor was more open to, but the next day Colina was diagnosed with COVID-19, which Henderson says was a dealbreaker on that arrangement.

The memo did not include any mention of Menegazzo being punished for the policy infractions. New Times is waiting for MPD to provide documentation of any disciplinary action.

Henderson says he is still awaiting an apology from Menegazzo.

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