Deputy Do-Wrong

Lewis Perry slipped through BSO's porous screening process. For the Gomez family, the results were tragic.

Although his brother had already been taken away by paramedics, he quickly realized who had been in the middle of the chaotic scene. "We saw the shirt, we saw the shoe, we saw the blood, but he wasn't there," he says. "I knew the shoe."

As deputies were taking Dominguez away in handcuffs, Jesus asked him what happened.

"He started crying that Germán had been shot and killed," Jesus says. "At that point, we were devastated that our dreams to come over just to work... we never thought they'd shoot my brother."

Attorney David Kubiliun, who's representing Germán Gomez in a lawsuit against BSO
Colby Katz
Attorney David Kubiliun, who's representing Germán Gomez in a lawsuit against BSO
Gomez lives in a convalescence facility in Wilton Manors, where he's 40 or more years younger than most of his fellow residents.
Colby Katz
Gomez lives in a convalescence facility in Wilton Manors, where he's 40 or more years younger than most of his fellow residents.

Nearing tears for the first time in his story, Jesus concludes, "It is a miracle of God that he is still with us."

A full understanding of what happened to Germán Gomez requires a look 1,400 miles to the north and a dozen years back. Here began a trail of infractions and misconduct by Lewis Perry that would lead inexorably to that bloody night in Pompano Beach. Perry's career was drenched in official reprimands and suspensions that should have been discovered by any prospective employer, says Kubiliun, Gomez's attorney. Yet BSO somehow missed it all.

Perry came from a law enforcement family; his brother was with the Connecticut police, and his father was a small-town cop. Perry's first job was as a patrolman in Madison, Connecticut, a tranquil New England coastal town about 15 miles west of New Haven. Despite his family tradition, his seven-year stint in Madison was a troubled one, ending with the chief of police's recommending Perry's termination.

Perry was the subject of about 20 internal affairs investigations, and the department sustained charges in most of them. Although some of the incidents were minor, the overall pattern of Perry's behavior during his tenure with the Madison PD was apparently one of immaturity, dishonesty, and recklessness. In short, it appeared to reveal the kind of cop no agency would want on its payroll.

Early in his tenure with Madison, Perry pulled his cruiser out in front of oncoming traffic, causing an accident that "placed the safety of the public in jeopardy," according to the internal affairs report. Perry had to be ordered to turn over a list of witnesses to the crash. At first, he wouldn't give a statement (a piece of street cop defensiveness that would show up again in the Gomez case), and then he told conflicting stories about why he'd rushed into speeding traffic. He was suspended for five days.

By March 1995, Perry seemed on the brink of losing his job — after being slapped with another five-day suspension for not reporting to duty and lying about the reason. In a memo to the police chief, Capt. Paul Jakubson expressed exasperation with the hallmark of Perry's performance: poor judgment.

"He has demonstrated an ability to overreact when confronted with seemingly simple problems," Jakubson wrote. "I believe that the time has come for us to seriously consider whether Officer Perry's continued employment with the Town of Madison can be considered a 'negligent retention' issue." In other words, keeping Perry on the force could leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits.

Perry, however, stayed on for more than two years — despite an increasing number of complaints. In one of the most egregious of those cases, involving a dog attack, county prosecutors considered criminally charging Perry.

In that incident, Perry pulled his red Dodge pickup into the parking lot of Townline Auto, a small mom-and-pop repair shop in Guilford, about six miles west of Madison. Perry saw Richard Fiengo, a friend who was the shop owner's son, sitting in a car in the lot. Standing beside that car was Carl Jordan Jr., a tall, husky 19-year-old who was checking with Fiengo to see if his mother's car had been repaired.

Perry got out of his pickup with his pet German shepherd, Thor, on an extendable leash. He'd gotten the dog from Todd Carlson, the K-9 handler with the nearby Clinton Police Department. Carlson had worked with Thor for two years, but the hound had washed out of the program.

Perry and Fiengo were friends, and apparently the officer had jokingly set his dog after the man several times in the past — humor that Fiengo told police later he didn't appreciate. Approaching the car, Perry told Thor "Get him. Get Rich," according to statements made to the police. Thor lunged at the car door, but Fiengo rolled up the window as the dog snapped. The canine immediately turned to Jordan and bit into his Levi jeans in the right-front pocket area, tearing a foot-long hole.

Perry didn't know it at the time, but Jordan was the son of Madison's deputy police chief, who subsequently insisted that the department conduct an internal affairs investigation into the matter. Perry was evasive in his statement to investigators, at first denying that the dog bit anyone. The dog's trainer, Carlson, told investigators that Perry had been curious about Thor's police training to a degree that "was very intense, bordering on unhealthy."

The Guilford PD found sufficient probable cause to charge Perry with reckless endangerment, a second-degree felony, and the department submitted an arrest warrant to the State Attorney's Office. Perry was eventually given a written reprimand for his conduct. As in the past, he wouldn't take responsibility for his actions, as evidenced by a union grievance he filed over the matter. "All pets are just that, pets," he wrote in his grievance, which was ultimately denied. "Their actions should not be the basis for discipline."

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