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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates held a news conference Thursday to discuss their investigation into thousands of offensive emails discovered inside the police department.
The sexually explicit, racist and demeaning emails circulated included pornography and an autopsy photograph that may have been sent to others outside the department.
Fernandez Rundle said her team created a list of those officers who sent and received these emails. They found 16 officers were involved. Those officers are witnesses in 540 cases, of which about 90 remain open.
However, Chief Oates stressed two former cops were the main “purveyors” of sexually and racially explicit emails and identified them as Former Major Angel Vazquez and Former Captain Alex Carulo.
“They were the primary purveyors of pornography and high volume of it. I was shocked and angry,” Oates told the assembled press.
Vazquez has since retired, but could face a potential criminal charge for his alleged role in circulating an autopsy photograph of Raymond Herisse who was shot by police in 2011 during Memorial Day, Oates said.
Herisse’s family attorney, Marwan Porter, told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana he was not surprised.
“It’s just another example of the type of conduct that hey believed was acceptable at that time,” Porter said.
Carulo was fired Thursday morning, Oates said.
Carulo’s attorney, Gene Gibbons, issued a statement, which said in part, “We are disappointed with the City’s decision to terminate Lt. Carulo, a distinguished, dedicated and loyal 22 year veteran of their police department… This is old news within the City.”
Gibbons went on to write, “What is crystal clear, is there was a culture that was fostered and condoned within the police department over a long period of time. Lt. Carulo should not have become the City’s sacrificial lamb.”
He said he plans to challenge the termination.
Last year CBS4’s Jim DeFede learned about the investigation, but was unable to obtain the emails. At the time, Vasquez admitted to sending racy emails and what he termed “jokes,” telling DeFede: “That was the culture back then. It was just guys emailing each other. There was a good ol’ boy mentality back then.”
The emails in question pre-date Chief Oates’ arrival to the department.
“I can’t do enough to say how much we condemn it. That kind of behavior is over,” Oates said.
Fernandez Rundle echoed those sentiments.
“You have now seen the content of some of the images. They are disgusting,” Fernandez Rundle said.
SAO says racist and sexually inappropriate emails sent by Miami Beach cops. Here’s an example provide by SAO to media pic.twitter.com/7UY09P7ETg
— Lauren Pastrana CBS4 (@LaurenPastrana) May 14, 2015
However, some defendants could be exonerated, Fernandez Rundle said.
Oates, who was appointed chief in June 2014 after former Chief Raymond Martinez retired, said he learned about the racist/inappropriate emails in July. He called them the situation a “failure of accountability and leadership.”
Oates said the department discovered the emails during an unrelated 2012 internal affairs investigation involving Vazquez.
CBS4 News reviewed Vazquez’s file and found he had received a letter of reprimand for trying to influence another officer to help his former brother-in-law get out of a DUI. As part of the investigation, internal affairs officers reviewed his email and came across the sexual and racist emails.
Both Fernandez Rundle and Oates added that they were looking into the possibility that the images depicted minors and in an abundance of caution sent the images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A majority of the images do not appear to have minors, they said.
Former Police Chief Ray Martinez sent him a one-page “counseling” memo that read in part: “On December 15, 2013, I counseled you on the proper use of city email…future violations will result in progressive discipline.”
At the time, the chief closed the case the following day and added that “no further action necessary.”
During the press conference, Oates pointed out that Martinez was the recipient of at least three explicit emails, however, he could not say if the former chief had opened them. But he said this latest chapter in the police department’s history serves a purpose.
“We are sending a message that reporting [wrongdoing] will be embraced,” Oates said.
Chief Oates says one other employee will face significant discipline for his role in this embarrassing episode.
CBS4’s Jasmine Kripalani and Anastasia Royle contributed to this report.