Miami Gardens sergeant under investigation for allegedly kidnapping woman while on duty
City investigates cop accused of armed kidnapping, attempting sex assault
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – When Miami Gardens police responded to a call about a troubled 23-year-old woman running in traffic late at night on July 11, it was Sgt. Javier Romaguera who took custody of her, police records obtained by Local 10 News show.
"I'm giving a transport to a black female," Romaguera can be heard saying on a police dispatch recording.
Police records show that the woman, a recent Haitian immigrant, didn't meet the criteria of being institutionalized as a danger to herself or others under the state's Baker Act. Romaguera reported that he was taking her to her previous residence on Ficus Drive in Miramar, where she would presumably be safe and cared for.
Police records show he listed his mileage and claimed he dropped her off 46 minutes after midnight. But there's a serious problem with his story. The owner of the house, Junior Benjamin, said no police officers showed up that night or any other night with the woman after she moved out of the home.
Where did Romaguera take the woman? She alleges that he took her to a room at the Stadium Hotel near the Calder Race Track and the Hard Rock Stadium where he tried to have sex with her, touching her breasts and attempting to kiss her.
"I said, 'No, don’t touch my breasts, don’t touch!'," said the woman, who isn't being identified due to the nature of the allegations. "He tried to kiss me too. I said, 'No! Don’t touch me!"
In a phone interview from a woman's shelter in New York, where she resides now, the alleged victim, who immigrated from Haiti roughly a year ago, said that when she began to cry, he stopped and left her alone in the room.
The woman's attorney, Stephan Lopez, said he was able to obtain the Stadium Hotel receipt. It proves Romaguera paid for a room at the hotel that night, as well as the following night. Romaguera's name is on the receipt listing the Miami Gardens Police Department as his address.
"I just stay on the bed, no taking shower, no eat," the woman said of her time in the hotel room. "Just stay on the bed."
Jensen Mondesir, a close friend of the woman, said he spent 36 hours trying to find her. He said he assumed that she had been hospitalized under the Baker Act, as had occurred during similar episodes in the past. But he couldn't find her at any mental health facility.
Mondesir said he learned from the police department that Sgt. Romaguera had allegedly dropped her off at the Ficus Drive address. But he later learned that wasn't true. He said the woman called him from the Stadium Hotel. At some point police found her and finally hospitalized her.
After she told him that a police officer had taken to her the hotel and tried to have sex with her, Mondesir filed an internal affairs complaint with the Miami Gardens Police Department.
"She explained that the officer told her that she was beautiful, that he liked her, and that he was getting them a room at 'his' hotel," Mondesir wrote in the complaint, filed July 15. "She told me that he came [onto] her, wanting to kiss her, and said she would not leave the room until they finished."
Mondesir also wrote that she "blanks out from there." Her attorney, Lopez, has taken a sworn statement from the alleged victim and sent a letter notifying the police department of his intent to file a lawsuit. Lopez believes Romaguera violated her Constitutional rights and much more.
"He committed armed kidnapping and he committed attempted sexual assault," Lopez said. Romaguera "was armed. She didn’t run. She didn't call police, because he was the police."
Lopez said the case was made more egregious, because of the extreme vulnerability of his client.
"She comes into this country, she's suffering from mental illness, this person is destitute, this person is alone," Lopez said. "And Javier Romaguera knew that and that is why he preyed on her."
Lopez said he expects Romaguera to try to use his client's mental health issues against her.
"He’s hoping that he can just point the finger and say, 'She’s crazy, she’s making it up,'" said Lopez, adding that the evidence overwhelms any such argument. "The evidence will support that he had no rhyme or reason to take any of the actions he took that night."
When given an opportunity to explain what happened, Romaguera laughed and said, "No comment." The city of Miami Gardens confirmed the police department's internal affairs unit is investigating Romaguera, and after the Local 10 News inquiry placed him on desk duty.
A city spokeswoman claimed the move was not tied to the ongoing investigation.
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