13 Miami Police Officers Arrested In Planted-Gun Cases

9-7-01, MIAMI -- (AP) -- Eleven current and former Miami police officers, including a former police chief's assistant, were named in an indictment unsealed Friday that charges them with committing crimes to cover up questionable shootings.

Two other officers, both now retired, have already pleaded to charges in the indictment, bringing the total charged to 13, federal prosecutors said.

Five officers were arrested at the Miami Police Department. They were summoned to the chief's office early Friday and relieved of their duty, badges and weapons, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

Two other former officers were arrested at their homes, and four others were expected to surrender with their attorneys during the day, Orihuela said. All were being taken to regional FBI headquarters in suburban Miami, and court appearances were expected in the afternoon in downtown Miami.

U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. at his office downtown.

Miami police had no immediate comment on the arrests.

The arrests expanded on a March indictment charging five Miami SWAT officers with conspiracy to obstruct justice for allegedly lying to investigators after a 73-year-old man was killed in a hail of 123 bullets during a 1996 drug raid.

Shots narrowly missed his 14-year-old granddaughter. Police said the man fired first. No drugs were found in the house, but some were found outside a window.

Arrested at the chief's office were Officers Israel Gonzalez, once an assistant to a former chief; Jose Acuna; Jorge Garcia; Jose Quintero and Jorge Castello, Orihuela said. Former officers arrested at home were Jesus Aguero and Arturo Beguiristain, she said.

Acuna and Beguiristain were indicted earlier along with Ralph Fuentes, Elizer Lopez and Alejandro Macias in the elderly man's shooting.

The news release said the investigations also involved gun ‘‘throw-down'' cases involving the fatal shootings of two young black men after a smash-and-grab purse snatching on a downtown expressway ramp, a fatal inner-city shooting and the wounding of a homeless man who officers said was holding a weapon to the head of a friend. It actually was a small radio.

Although involving 13 present and former officers, all members of SWAT teams or special crime-supression units, the scandal is smaller than the "Miami River Cops'' case that grew out of the drownings of three drug-boats guards in the Miami River in 1985.

Two dozen Miami officers eventually were convicted of charges that police formed their own drug-ripoff ring, and as many as 100 officers were disciplined in a wider review as the department put its own under scrutiny.