NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – It was a shocking call that came from inside the North Miami Police Department.
"How 'bout if I put my gun in your f-----g mouth?" police communications operator Larry Coffee is heard saying. He's also heard saying, "OK, I'm gonna kill you b---h!"
It began in the police communications and dispatch center. Internal affairs records show that Coffee was on duty and at his desk when he apparently placed a personal call on his cellphone about a credit issue. The agency he called answered the phone.
"This call may be recorded for quality assurance," a voice said.
Within seconds, once a live operator is on the phone, the call escalates over verifying a Social Security number:
"Listen, you got the file number we're not, I'm not verifying that. I need to speak to you now ... about ..." Coffee said.
"Sir, I have to abide by the law," an operator said. "If you don't verify what I ask you, I cannot talk to you."
"How 'bout if I put my gun in your f-----g mouth and did ... would you talk then?" Coffee then replied.
Coffee is transferred to a supervisor and, later, the call abruptly ends like this:
"I'll be going to court ... and you motherf-----s going to pay me my money," Coffee said.
"OK, sir, I'm going to terminate the phone call. Have a wonderful day," a supervisor replied.
"OK, I'm gonna kill you b----h," Coffee said.
"Mr. Coffee, can you tell us why you threatened to kill a creditor?" Local 10 News investigative reporter Ross Palombo asked Coffee as he was getting into his SUV outside the police station.
There was no answer -- Coffee left without a word.
"We just want your side of the story," Palombo said.
The operator and supervisor gave their sides of the story to the Miami Dade Police Department. The state attorney's office also looked into the incident. Neither agency pursued criminal charges.
North Miami police pursued its own investigation, however, and its report noted that the dispatcher "stated that he owns two firearms, a Glock 17 and a Glock 26," but "when asked if he had any intentions in carrying out the aforementioned threat, he stated, 'No.'"
Coffee was suspended for one day and sent back to dispatch.
"I wanted to ask you about Coffee," Palombo told Police Chief Leonard Burgess as he walked into a City Council meeting.
Burgess first refused comment but later agreed to an interview.
"I'm aware of the case, Ross. ... He was disciplined for that," Burgess said.
"You think one day is enough for that?" Palombo asked.
"It was appropriate for the disciplinary process we have in place," Burgess said.
"One day for those types of threats?" Councilman Scott Galvin asked.
Galvin is not only concerned about the dispatcher's actions but by the police department's reaction.
"That's stunning," Galvin said. "That's a small price to pay for leveling threats against people's lives and threatening to stick a gun in somebody's mouth."
Coffee is a 20-year department veteran and does have at least 16 commendations and letters in his personnel file for excellent service.
Some are still questioning that phone call, though, coming from dispatch and from Coffee himself. He is still at the other end of the line.
"When you or I dial 911, those calls are going to him," Galvin said.
"Does that bother you?" Palombo asked.
"Oh, it's very concerning," Galvin said.
"Hearing him freak out like that on one phone call," Palombo asked Burgess, "can he can take a 911 call for the city?"
"He's a 20-year veteran," Burgess said, "and that's why he was disciplined for that incident."
"Do you think the public should believe that you can be a dispatcher if that's how you handle calls?" Palombo asked Coffee.
Again, there was no answer.
After Local 10 exposed the call, the police chief's boss, city manager Aleem Ghany, told Palombo he is personally looking into this while saying he is seriously concerned.
Follow Ross Palombo on Twitter @rosspalombo
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