HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office on Friday released videos that prosecutors say show Homestead Police Sgt. Jeffery Rome kicking a 69-year old man unconscious and pepper-spraying another man repeatedly in the face.
The videos are part of the evidence the state will use to prosecute Rome, who was one of three Homestead police officers arrested last month in connection with a string of alleged attacks outside a Homestead bar where migrant and immigrant farm workers go for a night out.
Rome’s attorney, C. Michael Cornely, declined to comment for this article, saying he hadn’t seen the videos.
“I’ll be looking at it, so I really can’t comment,” he said.
Cornely added: “I still believe in my client’s innocence, and I’m glad we have the evidence.”
Two of the alleged attacks involving Rome were captured on blurry videos shot by detectives who were watching the bar as part of a human trafficking investigation. Instead, investigators say they stumbled across a case of repeated police brutality.
One video purportedly shows Rome leaning on a police car outside the bar, arms folded. Minutes before, a man is seen standing in the road with a bicycle.
Though the video has no audio, an arrest warrant states that Rome told the man with the bicycle, identified as Arcadio Sosa Rodriguez, to leave. In the video, Rodriguez stands in the road for a few moments, and then crosses the street and appears to talk to a woman there.
The officer appears to watch Rodriguez for about 30 seconds before walking briskly across the street into oncoming traffic. He grabs the man from behind by the collar and the man falls to the ground.
Rodriguez appears to be dragged between a white SUV and a silver PT Cruiser and can’t be seen. But witnesses say it was then that Rome kicked Rodriguez unconscious. In about 35 seconds, the alleged attack is over and the officer walks back across the street.
Rodriguez lies on the sidewalk, his shirt pulled halfway off. Two witnesses watch him from the road.
Then, the officer walks back over, bends over Rodriguez, and appears to shake him. The officer leaves, only to walk over again and pour water on Rodriguez’s face.
Rodriguez sits up, propping himself up with one arm. A small crowd forms and someone drives away in the PT Cruiser, leaving an unobstructed view. A man in a cowboy hat struggles to help Rodriguez up while the police officer appears to watch with his hand on his hips. Rodriguez eventually walks away.
Detectives later caught up with him and brought him to the hospital, according to an arrest warrant. Rodriguez had cuts and bruises on his ankle, knees and elbow, and was in the hospital at least overnight, according to the warrant.
Another video allegedly shows Rome outside the bar when a man in a gray striped shirt and long baggy shorts walks up. The two appear to talk, and an arrest warrant states Rome told the man, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, to leave. In the video, the officer appears to hold up his arm, with something black clutched in his fist.
The man appears to leave, but comes back about 15 minutes later, reportedly to tell Rome that someone just tried to rob him. He stands in front of the officer for about five seconds before the officer lifts his arm twice, apparently pepper spraying the man in the face from close range.
The man appears out of the camera’s shot for about a minute, but then comes back. The officer follows him, appearing to spray the man in the face again.
The man starts to walk away, and the officer stalks him down the street, walking into oncoming traffic, the word “POLICE” visible across the back of his shirt in yellow letters.
Rome, a veteran in the department, faces felony charges of abuse of an elderly adult and false imprisonment. He also faces a misdemeanor battery charge in another incident outside the club, during which Rome is accused of pepper-spraying another man in the face and handcuffing him to a fence while an ambulance the man had called looked for him.
In a separate incident outside the bar, Homestead Police officer Giovanni Soto was also arrested for allegedly hitting a man in the face with a nightstick, leaving the man with stitches, and later dumping him at home after he called an ambulance. Homestead Sgt. Lizanne Deegan was also arrested for allegedly not writing a report about the incident.