HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – Three Homestead police officers were arrested Monday night on charges stemming from a series of alleged attacks — two of which were caught on video — on men outside a bar last year.
The main target: Sgt. Jeffrey Rome, who, according to arrest warrants, beat or pepper-sprayed at least three men outside Celio’s Latin Quarter Bar. At least two of the incidents were caught on videotape by undercover detectives who had the bar under surveillance for an unrelated investigation into human trafficking.
The other officers are Sgt. Lizanne Deegan and Giovanni Soto, who are accused of misconduct involving a man who was beaten up outside the bar and later was hospitalized in February 2011.
Rome, 56, is charged with battery, false imprisonment and abuse of an elderly adult. Soto, 40, is charged with battery and official misconduct, while Deegan, 44, is charged with official misconduct.
The three were suspended with pay in April 2011. They were formally arrested on Monday. They later were released from a Miami-Dade County Jail after posting bail, hopped a wall to avoid members of the press and then climbed into a waiting black SUV, which sped away.
“After 15 months, I believe in my client’s innocence,” said C. Michael Cornely, who is representing Rome. “I believe at the end of the day, he will be vindicated.”
According to the arrest warrants, Rome worked off-duty outside the bar, 38 NE Ninth St., frequented by a crowd of mostly Hispanic migrant workers who live and work in Homestead.
In April 2011, according to the court documents, detectives witnessed a man speaking with Rome before leaving. He walked back a short time later and Rome pepper sprayed him three times outside the bar, the warrant said.
Detective Antonio Aquino and Ricky Rivera later rushed to his aid, offering him medical help. He refused, the warrant said.
The man later told detectives and prosecutor Breezye Telfair that someone had tried to rob him as he walked away and that he went running back to Rome to seek his help. He identified Rome in a photo lineup.
On another occasion in April 2011, Aquino and Rivera saw Rome drag an elderly man away from the bar, kicking him in the head — an altercation also captured on video. Rome was seen pouring water on the man, who had been lying down for seven minutes, the warrant said. The man later told detectives that two men had tried to rob him of his bicycle and that he had sought out Rome for help.
Rome also is accused of pepper spraying another man, the warrant shows. As for Deegan and Soto, they were charged in connection to an alleged beating outside Celio’s Latin Quarter Bar.
The man claimed Soto beat him up, and then dropped him off at his home “like he was a dog and was refused medical treatment.”
According to an arrest warrant, Soto called 911 and an ambulance took the victim to Homestead Hospital.
Deegan followed him to the hospital, took photos and gave him her card with a case number on it. But prosecutors say she covered up the case by failing to write a report on the incident.
Richard Sharpstein, her lawyer, said Deegan, charged with official misconduct, believed that the drunken man had been in a bar fight and that she had no legal obligation to author a report.