Update, 4:30 p.m.: The Miami Police Department (MPD) has confirmed to New Times that Sgt. Mario Menegazzo was the officer depicted handcuffing Dr. Armen Henderson in a surveillance video. A closeout memo for the internal investigation into the sergeant is dated May 4; New Times is waiting to receive disciplinary records for the case.
More than a month after an officer handcuffed University of Miami physician Armen Henderson outside of Henderson's home, the Miami Police Department has yet to identify the cop by name.
Video footage shows the uniformed officer stepping out of his car, getting into an argument with Henderson, and putting the doctor in handcuffs. Henderson, who was loading up his van with supplies for the homeless at the time, has said he believes he was racially profiled by the cop.
Yesterday, MPD spokesperson Kiara Delva told New Times in an email that she was not at liberty to disclose the officer's name "due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation."
But after interviewing multiple sources, New Times was able to determine the officer who accosted Henderson on April 10 is Sgt. Mario Menegazzo, whose post includes the Flagami area, where Henderson lives.
"I looked up his picture," asserts Henderson, who plans to sue the police department for mistreatment. "It's definitely him."
Rodney Jacobs, assistant director of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), says the independent police oversight board hasn't received official confirmation of the officer's identity, but Jacobs says it is the understanding of the CIP investigators that Menegazzo is the officer shown cuffing Henderson in the surveillance video.
Police Chief Jorge Colina said in an April 11 video statement that the department would investigate the incident involving Henderson.
According to records obtained by New Times, this is far from the first time Menegazzo has been under investigation at MPD — since he was hired in 2012, disciplinary files show Menegazzo has logged eight citizen complaints and been investigated for 13 incidents involving the use of force.
"For the amount of time he's been on the force, it's a very concerning and troubling pattern. A couple of use-of-force incidents show a pattern of aggressiveness," says Danny Suarez, a former CIP board member.
Some of the complaints allege that Menegazzo was discourteous while making arrests. Others accuse the sergeant of behavior similar to what Henderson says he experienced.
Among the incidents included in Henderson's disciplinary file:
- In August 2014, a woman named Yesenia Alvarez complained that Menegazzo issued her a summons for multiple traffic infractions she says she did not commit, including a lack of insurance, child safety-belt violations, and allegedly cutting off Menegazzo in traffic. She alleged that Menegazzo ordered her husband out of their car and told him to "shut up." The CIP was unable to determine if Menegazzo acted improperly, because Alvarez did not respond to requests from investigators.
- In September 2014, a woman named Cristina Garvey said Menegazzo arrived at her door while she was arguing with her boyfriend. Her complaint says that when she told the officer she did not need to speak with him, he grabbed her arm, shoved her against a wall, and handcuffed her. When she asked if she could change her clothes, he allegedly told her, "You should have thought of that before you ran your mouth." MPD's internal affairs unit found the allegations of discourtesy and improper procedure against Menegazzo to be inconclusive.
- In January 2015, a man named Jorge Sanchez complained that Menegazzo approached him while he was pumping gas because he'd heard Sanchez was spreading rumors about him. Menegazzo got into an argument with Sanchez and told Sanchez to put his hands on the roof. He patted down Sanchez for weapons, told him to "cool it," and then left, according to a CIP summary of the incident. Records indicate that Sanchez later withdrew his complaint, but MPD's internal affairs unit sustained a charge of improper procedure against Menegazzo for not following departmental guidelines about gossip.
- In October 2016, Menegazzo punched a man in the face after the suspect attempted to pull away during an arrest for disorderly conduct. In a statement to internal investigators, Menegazzo said that while the suspect was on the ground, he gave him "loud verbal commands" while delivering "distractionary punches." MPD's internal affairs unit cleared Menegazzo of wrongdoing in the case.
Despite the ongoing investigation into Henderson's allegations, Menegazzo apparently remains on active duty. When reached by phone yesterday, the sergeant told New Times he's working on a case.
Asked about the incident involving Henderson, Menegazzo responded, "I'd like to reserve my comment on that."
Henderson is seeking a settlement from the City of Miami and plans to take the city to court if it doesn't acquiesce.
"Hopefully we get it resolved so we don't have to file," says Henderson's attorney, Faudlin Pierre. "We've outlined an assault, a possible negligence claim, and a false arrest/imprisonment claim."
Pierre tells New Times that if the suit does make it to court, he will name Menegazzo in the complaint.
Henderson says he's skeptical that the police department will discipline the sergeant on its own accord.
"I'm not confident this person is gonna be held accountable," he says. "We've seen too many people just get slapped on the wrist."
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