MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade Police officer has been suspended without pay pending review of his case after he was arrested and charged with falsely claiming his patrol car was vandalized.
Investigators say 34-year-old Joshua Zacarias struck a chain-link gate at his district station at 5975 Miami Lakes Drive east and then lied about it.
A police report says Zacarias claimed his patrol car had been “keyed” while at his condominium complex in March of 2013. But investigators reportedly found damage on the right side of his vehicle that was sustained in a hit and run crash. They said the damage was consistent with the height of the gate latch at the station.
Investigators say Zacarias hit the gate after working an all-night overtime shift. He is charged with official misconduct.
Zacarias’s attorney, Douglas Hartman, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “We’re surprised. My client is very upset. What he has to say is that he has no knowledge of causing any damage to the car. He denies that he knows that he caused damage to the car.”
“On the night of the alleged incident, he was working an all night shift and had just captured four armed robber suspects and now he discovers he was charged with official misconduct,” said Hartman. “He went from hero to defendant.”
Hartman told D’Oench that Zacarias has not been in trouble with any criminal cases before. He said he plans a vigorous defense and hoped to take this case before a jury.
“My client has not been in trouble before,” said Hartman. He planned to meet to meet with Zacarias after he posted bond and was released from jail.
CBS4 discovered Zacarias has been accused of wrongdoing before.
In a lawsuit that was filed last month, Kirenia Cardidad Figuera claims that Zacarias tried to have her wrongly committed to a mental institution after she rejected his attentions.
She said Zacarias mistreated her after being infatuated with her. She said they had during a landlord-tenant dispute.
Figuera said in one instance, Zacarias began yelling at one of her former boyfriends and pulled out a gun and chased him away from her home. She said Zacarias called her repeatedly on the phone.
In another incident, she said Zacarias had a verbal altercation with her and arrested her and accused her of being irrational and then transported her to the Citris Mental Institute. The lawsuit said the staff there found no basis for institutionalization. And she was released within hours.
Miami-Dade Police could not comment about the lawsuit which has not been resolved.