Miami Police Major Manuel Orosa was named acting chief of the Miami Police Department Tuesday morning following the suspension of Chief Miguel Exposito.
Who is Manuel Orosa?
A 31-year department veteran, Orosa was caught up in the case of 6 undercover Miami police officers who were implicated in the 1988 beating death of Wynwood drug dealer, Leonardo Nercado.
Then Sgt. Manuel Orosa supervised the elite narcotics sting unit to which the six undercover cops belonged.
In 1989 the Herald reported, "Their sergeant, Manuel Orosa , and lieutenant, Michael Christopher, remain relieved of duty with pay for failure to preserve evidence in the case but were not charged by prosecutors. 'They simply arrived on the scene later, and we chose not to recommend to the grand jury that they be indicted,' U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen said at a press conference."
|Maj. Manuel Orosa|
According to the Herald, "Orosa was not charged [in the case], denied wrongdoing and cooperated with prosecutors before returning to the department."
Here's a more detailed timeline:
From the Miami Herald, Dec. 18, 1988:
Miami police said Saturday that Leonardo Mercado , a suspected drug dealer who died in police custody the night before, was beaten to death.
Eight members of the department's street narcotics unit, including six undercover officers who were with Mercado before he died, were relieved of duty with pay.
"This thing was just a frenzy," said police spokesman Sgt. David Rivero.
Mercado "died as a result of blunt trauma to the torso, causing internal bleeding," Rivero said. "He bled to death."
The incident came just days after Miami police were given an anonymous tip that Mercado had put out a murder contract on Pablo Camacho, one of the undercover officers now being investigated for Mercado 's death. That threat had recently become the talk of the department. Police said Camacho is the prime suspect, and that criminal charges, including murder, could be filed soon.
Relieved of duty along with Camacho are detectives Andy Watson, Tommy Trujillo, Charlie Haynes, Ron Sinclair and Nathaniel Veal. The unit's leader, Lt. Michael Christopher, and Sgt. Manuel Orosa, were also relieved of duty for violating departmental rules after the incident.
|from the Miami News, Dec. 19, 1988. Click to enlarge.|
From the Miami Herald, Dec. 20, 1988:
The eight Miami detectives under investigation in the fatal beating of Leonardo Mercado were part of a narcotics sting unit known as "the jump-out gang" -- street-smart, productive cops who were often praised for their zeal and aggressiveness.From the Miami Herald, June 15, 1994:
The unit's supervisors, Lt. Mike Christopher and Sgt. Manuel Orosa, also are relieved of duty for the way they handled the case the night it happened.
Six of the officers' personnel files, released Monday, show a tightly knit, highly motivated group, frequently commended for "aggressively attacking the overburdening drug problem," wrote Lt. John E. Brooks, the unit's former commander, in a memo to former Police Chief Clarence Dickson.
Lt. Christopher's personnel file includes letters from community leaders and police officials who were invited to watch the "jump-out gang" conduct its reverse stings.
The group got its nickname because the officers would jump out of unmarked cars, surprise drug dealers and snatch their stashes.
WSVN-Channel 7 news anchor Rick Sanchez commended Christopher's unit for "devotion, dedication and a zeal for getting the job done."
"In this reporter's opinion," Sanchez wrote, "they are a credit to the Miami Police Department and to the residents of South Florida."
Sgt. Orosa's evaluations describe him as a relentless worker, an "aggressive leader" who "always pushes his crew to the limit" and "knows how to motivate his subordinates." In February, he received a certificate after attending a week-long stress course.
A prosecutor in the Mercado cops cover-up case Tuesday lambasted a string of Miami police officers for "shameful conduct," accusing them of doctoring their testimony to help six fellow officers on trial.
"There were people who shared in the complicity and lies," prosecutor John Kastrenakes told the jury. "They do not represent the vast majority of police officers. But it is their conduct that tarnishes the badge of all police officers."
Kastrenakes, while summarizing the government's case, pointed to the conduct of the supervisors of the six undercover cops on trial: Miami police Lt. Manuel Orosa and former Lt. Michael Christopher, who has retired. Kastrenakes criticized several other officers for selective memories.
Kastrenakes said Christopher and Orosa violated police procedures by giving officers time to concoct a cover up story before they were questioned by homicide detectives about the 1988 beating death of Leonardo Mercado , a neighborhood drug dealer.
"They allowed their men to get their story straight," Kastrenakes said. "All of them magically had the same story."
Orosa , who took the stand for the defense, contended that he followed procedures and told no lies. He said prosecutors were the ones who pressured him to change his account, threatening him with arrest at one point.