- Gay tourist: Miami Beach cops made up charges, arrested him after he reported to 911 that they beat a man
- Desk duty for 2 accused Miami Beach cops
- Hear Harold Strickland’s emergency phone call to Miami Beach 911
- Read the ACLU letter to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower
BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
But Strickland – who says two Miami Beach police officers yelled antigay slurs and falsely accused him of a crime after he saw them beating a handcuffed man – now is afraid to return.
“I've been frightened to death to come back to Miami, because one of those guys threatened my life,'' Strickland said Friday from New York. “He said he could take me downtown and make me disappear.''
The ACLU of Florida on Wednesday announced plans to sue Miami Beach and police officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi.
A few hours before the March 13 incident, Strickland ate dinner on Lincoln Road, stopped at a gay club and then strolled alone to West Avenue for a look at his renovated former apartment.
On his way back to the Albion Hotel, Strickland approached Flamingo Park near 14th Street and Michigan Avenue, where he says he saw two guys beating a man and kicking him in the head like “a football.''
Strickland called 911, realizing as he described the beating that the two assailants – with guns, walkie-talkies and handcuffs – were undercover police.
For nearly five minutes, Strickland spoke with the dispatcher until he said the two men were “coming after me!''
The men, later identified as Forte and Hazzi, approached Strickland and can be heard on the recording asking him why he is there, where he lives and if he has identification. Then the line went dead.
Strickland said the cops had no idea he was speaking with a 911 dispatcher when they grabbed his cellphone and disconnected the call.
“First I tried to explain myself,”' Strickland said, but the officers wouldn't listen.
Strickland called 911 at 1:06 a.m., according to dispatch records. Forte wrote in an arrest report that 30 minutes later – at 1:36 a.m. – he saw Strickland trying to break into six cars near Flamingo Park.
The officers arrested Strickland for loitering or prowling but the charge later was dropped.
Strickland contacted the ACLU of Florida and returned to his home in Los Angeles a few days later.
“I haven't been back to Miami since, not because I don't want to, but because I'm afraid. The cops made it very clear to me that at any given time they could do whatever they wanted.''
Miami Beach police said Wednesday they have launched an internal affairs investigation and couldn't publicly discuss the case. A Fraternal Order of Police representative also said he couldn't comment.
Some gay residents demanded that Forte and Hazzi be taken off the streets and threatened a protest.
Police announced Thursday night the officers had been reassigned to desk duty.
Caption: Harold Strickland