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SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) – CBS4 News has learned another member of the Sweetwater Police Department is facing disciplinary action for his alleged role in the alleged covering up a crash involving an officer.
Lt. Rafael Castro is relieved of duty with pay pending a pre-determination hearing next week to decide his fate with the department, according to Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz.
“Clearly to me the accident incident was a cover-up. There is no other way to word it,” Chief Diaz told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Last summer, CBS4 obtained red light camera video showing Sweetwater Police Officer Alejandro Ramos speeding through a red light in his patrol car without stopping while heading to an emergency call.
Sweetwater policy requires officers to stop at all red traffic signals, even when responding to an emergency.
The video shows Ramos’ cruiser crashed into an oncoming pickup truck, whose driver insisted he had the green light.
What the video doesn’t show is what Officer Ramos told Florida Highway Patrol investigators.
He claimed he “stopped at the red traffic signal and proceeded through the intersection using due care.”
Based on Ramos’ statement, the driver of the pickup truck, Giobel Diaz Gonzalez, was ticketed for the crash and had to pay for damages.
When CBS4 discovered the video and brought it to the police chief’s attention last summer, it triggered an investigation that led to Ramos’ arrest just last week.
Ramos is now accused of misconduct for falsifying an official statement.
Chief Diaz tells Pastrana that Officer Ramos did not act alone.
“He was trained to cover this up and was probably instructed on how to do it. And he was a victim of this process and this past administration, police administration,” he said.
CBS4 has also learned Officer Ramos’ superior, Lt. Rafael Castro, allegedly knew about the video and did nothing.
A reprimand written in April 2016 says, “Lt. Castro was aware of the issues surrounding the incident at all times and had failed to bring corrective actions to resolve the matter.”
“Anybody in that chain of command who saw that video and did not take action was irresponsible in rank and I would say is irresponsible to the badge and acted unethically and immorally and breached the public trust,” Chief Diaz said.
The reprimand goes on to say, “Lt. Castro took an overwhelming interest in the annual evaluation relating to the officer involved in the investigation” and that he “completely omitted the Chief’s signature portion on the form.”
Castro’s personnel file includes several written reprimands, including one for perjury.
In fact, documents show Castro was terminated from the Surfside Police Department in 2004 for a “violation of moral character standard/perjury”.
“Again it goes back to his pattern of behavior. Once I looked at his file, he did the same thing in Surfside, tried to do the same thing here. I’m not going to tolerate that behavior. It will not be tolerated here. You will not perjure yourself and you will not recreate documents or forge documents in this department. And if you do, I’m going to hold you accountable,” Chief Diaz said.
Since CBS4’s investigation first started last year, the citation against the driver of the pickup truck has been thrown out.
But now, every single one of the cases Ramos and Castro have ever been a part of may be called into question.
“This isn’t about one officer, this is about every single officer in the United States,” Chief Diaz said. “We all have to tell the truth and the minute that you are caught lying, you no longer become affective as a police officer because you can’t testify. You can’t put someone in jail and with good conscience, good morals, or good ethics, go out there and testify against the person. And any defense attorney grabs a hold of this and all your cases, in my opinion, would be worthless.”
Chief Diaz said he will recommend Castro’s termination at a hearing next week where the mayor of Sweetwater will decide on the appropriate course of action.
Whether Castro will also face criminal charges has not yet been determined.
Attempts to reach Lt. Castro have been unsuccessful.