Love & Loathing

A routine traffic stop led to Pahokee's own Rodney King incident. Too bad there was no videotape.

Levey, on the other hand, depicts a berserk man who dragged Hachigian 20 feet before the cop brought the wildly resisting Love down to the cement -- a fall that smashed Love's face. They found a Baggie of marijuana in his SUV.

As the Fire Department and EMS vehicles arrived at the scene, parishioners from the nearby storefront Pentecostal Miracle Revival Center began gathering to watch. As it happened, Latimore and Allie Biggs, then the vice mayor, passed by the scene after eating dinner. Biggs recognized Love's car and called the mayor, who didn't answer.

Alarmed, Latimore got out of the driver's seat and approached a sheriff's deputy at the perimeter of the scene. "I'm Lillie Latimore, city manager of Pahokee," she told him. "What's going on?" He reacted "like I said a bad word," she recalls. He ordered her back to her car. "You don't understand," she said, "I'm the city manager, and I have a responsibility." That's when the deputy beckoned for another officer and as Latimore recalls, he told him to arrest her.

Pam Shavalier
Robert Love stands beside the street where he was beaten by Pahokee police this winter, the climax of a yearlong feud.
Colby Katz
Robert Love stands beside the street where he was beaten by Pahokee police this winter, the climax of a yearlong feud.

The second deputy tilted "a very large gun" at her, and she almost stumbled back to her car. Latimore learned later that it was a pepper-ball gun, but at the time, she believed a real firearm had been pointed at her. (The actions of the two deputies are under investigation by the Sheriff's Office, which would not comment on the case.)

Sasser soon arrived, awakened at home by Latimore and Biggs. "When the mayor approached the same officer that had been so rude to me and was going to order me arrested, he reached out and shook the mayor's hand," Latimore recalls. "I had a gun pointed at me and the mayor gets graciously received by the county officers?"

However he was received, Sasser wore out his welcome quickly. He saw Love in the back seat, head bloody and swollen like a basketball. Sick with a bad cold and already fed up with the ongoing feud, he approached Officer Peters and asked who'd stopped Love. "It was a routine traffic stop," he replied.

"Bullshit!" Sasser bellowed. (In his report, Peters says that Sasser smelled of alcohol and that he would have arrested him but feared "repercussions"; Sasser says he'd taken Nyquil.) Peters told him he didn't feel comfortable talking to him without the chief there.

No problem, the mayor said, dialing Duran, who was at home watching TV with his son, who was also ill. "You need to get your fuckin' ass over here right now!" Sasser yelled. "Heads are going to roll!"

Indeed, four days later, Latimore asked for Duran's resignation in lieu of being fired. Levey resigned the same day and has applied for a job with the Sheriff's Office, where he had been hired several years ago but failed to complete training. Duran says Levey told him he was leaving Pahokee because "they might damage my reputation and keep me from going to the Sheriff's Office."

Sounding more disappointed than bitter, Duran says his own dismissal was a step backward for law enforcement in Pahokee. "They gave Robert Love the right to brag that he was able to get rid of the chief," he says. "If you go to Pahokee now, every time they go to make an arrest, they get rocks and bottles thrown at them." (Peters recently had his wrist broken by a bottle hurled at him.) "From my perspective, it hurts, because this was a community I grew up in. I came to that community to really try to make a change."

Assistant State Attorney Shepherd has refiled a few of the old charges against Love and, along with those stemming from the Friday-night beating, sent it all to the main courthouse in West Palm Beach.

Love's response is typically hyperbolic. "You should have charged me for shooting the president if you wanted to just charge me with something!" he shouts. "But nothing sticks to the wall. You had nine months to make this stick, and you couldn't."

The way he sees it, going to trial (his next court appearance is scheduled for this week) will actually vindicate him. "Now the pot is full, and it's boiling over," he contends. "You know you got some bad polices on your hands!"

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