FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Fort Lauderdale police say a man who punched a valet at a hotel last week, in an attack that was captured on surveillance video, was warned that his actions might result in his arrest yet showed no signs of concern for the victim’s health, according to a Fort Lauderdale Police Department report obtained by CBS4 News on Monday.
Police say the man seen punching valet Rodolfo Rodriguez at the Ocean Sky Hotel & Resort last week is John Kiernan from New Smyrna Beach.
The incident report in the case says Kiernan was upset over the parking fee and “his request for a guest pass of some type.” Kiernan is seen on video having a discussion with the valet prior to the punch. During the discussion, Rodriguez stands with his hands by his sides on his pockets and does not appear to make any threatening moves.
After the blow, Kiernan told police “…that the victim made a comment to him in the nature of ‘You’re just looking to fight.’ Mr. J. Kiernan said his life experience taught him this was an aggressive statement so he chose to hit the guy first.”
But Kiernan, who told the manager at the hotel that he’s a former cop, told police that Rodriguez never showed a weapon or threatened him. Rodriguez told CBS4 News the same thing on Friday.
“Did you ever threaten him?” a reporter asked Rodriguez.
“No. Never,” Rodriguez said.
The police officer wrote in his report, “I informed J. Kiernan that at this time based on his account and the witnesses it appears he punched the victim without any provocation from the victim.”
So, why wasn’t Kiernan arrested?
CBS4 News showed the video to longtime South Florida police officer and private investigator Walter Philbrick.
Philbrick said this appears to be a misdemeanor which would not result in an immediate arrest. He said there are several reasons why.
First, the officer didn’t witness the punch and, two, the victim, while hurt, did not suffer an apparent significant injury. Also, the hotel could not provide the surveillance video to police right away to see the severity of the punch.
Philbrick said in these cases, the victim is told to contact the State Attorney’s Office.
“We then tell the victim, if you want to press charges, contact the State Attorney’s Office and go down there and they’ll press charges against the guy who attacked you,” Philbrick said.
The Fort Lauderdale police officer who responded to the scene told Kiernan that if the victim suffered substantial injuries Kiernan could be charged with a felony. The officer also wrote in his report that “(Kiernan) did not seem to concerned as well as he did not demonstrate any consideration for the victim wellbeing.”
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione responded to video in a written statement. He wrote, in part:
“Generally speaking, the police department does not conduct follow up investigations on misdemeanor crimes but did so on this case due to the egregious and allegedly unprovoked nature of this attack. I understand how on highly publicized incidents such as this one, patience with law enforcement during the investigative process is in short supply, but we are obligated to conduct a thorough and objective investigation.”
Click here to read the full statement.
CBS4 did some digging and found Kiernan’s been in trouble before.
In 2015, he was charged with petit theft after being accused of stealing sunglasses from Sunglass Hut in Orlando. According to the arrest report, Kiernan was working for a security provider at the Orlando International Airport at the time.
A police officer questioned Kiernan. The report says, “(The officer) then asked if he had walked out with the glasses he was looking at? Mr. Kiernan replied ‘No.’ I then said well we have you on video placing them into your pocket. Mr. Kiernan replied ‘No.’ Then he asked ‘Are you charging me with a crime.’“
Kiernan was then arrested. Records show the charges were dropped and that Kiernan entered a pre-trial diversion program.
Rodriguez meanwhile wants to see Kiernan charged for this vicious punch.
“He’s dangerous for a lot of people,” Rodriguez said Friday.
Rodriguez said he is still suffering headaches and pain in his jaw. He’s going back to the doctor in a few weeks. The hotel’s general manager said they want to see the victim pursue a civil suit against Kiernan.
CBS4 reached out to Kieran but the number listed for him has been disconnected.