Three Homestead Police officers bonded out of jail Monday night after being charged in connection with two 2011 assaults outside a Homestead bar, according to court records.
Officer Giovanni Soto, 40, faces charges of felony battery and official misconduct of a public servant, and Sgt. Lizanne Deegan, 44, faces a charge of official misconduct of a public servant in connection with a beating on Feb. 6, 2011, according to their arrest warrant.
Sgt. Jeffrey Rome, 56, of Homestead, who was implicated in the first incident, faces a charge of battery after he pepper-sprayed a 24-year-old Hispanic man outside the same establishment, Celio’s Latin Quarter Bar, on April 17, 2011, his arrest warrant said.
A Hispanic male told police that on Feb. 6, 2011 he was kicked out of the bar – called Celio's Cuartel Latino in Spanish – at 38 NE 9th St. because it was getting late, and said that he was waiting outside the bar with a friend when a policeman told him to go home. The male told the officer that he could not go home because he was waiting for his ride, and the officer took an object from his belt that looked like a metal stick and struck him in the mouth with it, Internal Affairs Detective Antonio Aquino wrote in the arrest warrant.
After the victim fell to the ground, the officer struck him on the hand with the same object, the warrant said. The victim later identified Soto as the officer who hit him, and Rome as the officer who saw the incident but did not help him, according to the warrant.
When the victim’s ride arrived, his friend took him to NW 2nd Street and NW 2nd Avenue, where the victim called 911, saying that he was bleeding badly and in a lot of pain. A police car arrived and the officer inside told the victim in Spanish, “Let’s go. I’ll take you home,” according to the warrant.
The officer – who he was unable to see but was Soto – took him to his home and did not offer medical assistance, according to the warrant.
The victim again called 911. This time several police cars and an ambulance showed up, and the victim told his story to a female police officer who said that she would take care of his report. The woman, Sgt. Deegan, provided the victim with a “case card” containing her name and phone number, according to the warrant.
In the first version of events Soto gave to Aquino, he indicated that he attempted to save the victim from getting “beat up” by Rome, Aquino wrote. Soto said that the victim was injured after he grabbed his hand, and Soto, startled, pushed the victim to the ground, Aquino wrote.
In his second version of events, Soto said that when he arrived at Celio’s the victim was already “beat up” and bleeding, and that Rome was already screaming at the victim, so Soto decided to take the victim away so he wouldn’t get “beat up again,” Aquino wrote.
“Officer Soto confirmed he thought Sergeant Deegan would cover up the issue and confirmed that his was not the first time he witnessed Sergeant Rome cause injury to patrons at Celio’s. Officer Soto stated that he didn’t report this because he was afraid of what could happen to his job,” Aquino wrote.
Neither Soto nor Deegan ever reported the incident to an investigation detective or internal affairs, and neither one prepared a report on the injury and accusation of the victim, Aquino wrote.
A Homestead Police dispatcher, Mariza Ramos, said that she and other midnight shift dispatchers received numerous calls from Hispanic males at Celio’s, Aquino wrote.
“According to Dispatcher Ramos, the Hispanic males made frequent complaints of being beaten and pepper-sprayed by Homestead Police on the nights Homestead Police Sergeant Jeffrey Rome worked the off-duty detail at Celio’s,” Aquino wrote.
In the April 2011 incident, Rome pepper-sprayed a 24-year-old Hispanic man three times, his arrest warrant said.
The man told police that Sgt. Rome would not let him re-enter the bar early on April 17, and that he pointed an “electric gun” at him and told him to leave. But when the man walked away he was almost robbed by someone else, and when he returned to Celio’s to tell Rome that, the sergeant pulled out his pepper spray and sprayed him three times, Aquino wrote in the arrest warrant.
Rome used Freeze + P, which Aquino described in the warrant as “the strongest pepper spray and tear gas mix available for non-military use.”
All three officers were placed on paid administrative leave last year as the incidents were investigated.
Homestead Police declined to comment Monday.