Deputy Do-Wrong

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

In comparison to that straightforward method, he asserts, BSO's telephonic background checks are sadly lacking. "How could you do a background check by just calling someone up on the phone?" Kollin asks, still amazed by the case years later. "How do you know who you're speaking to anyway? It's a flaw in the system — period."

In a deposition, Kollin asked Barrett to explain why he hadn't asked Doane the reason he left the Polk County agency. "I don't think it was my responsibility or duty to ask why someone left for political reasons, because I have been in the sheriff's office for 29 years," Barrett responded. "I know lots of people that left [BSO] for political reasons." Nor did he recall posing that question to a reference listed by Doane, a former sergeant who had retired. Barrett declined to comment for this article.

Another contractor who helped BSO process Doane and other applicants at that time suggested in a deposition that he didn't need to verify the identity of law enforcement officers he called on the telephone as references because cops "are expected to be honest and truthful."

Germán Gomez usually combs his thick hair over the scar left by a bullet from the gun of Deputy Lewis Perry.
Colby Katz
Germán Gomez usually combs his thick hair over the scar left by a bullet from the gun of Deputy Lewis Perry.

Kollin still sputters at the circular logic. "In that case, why would you ever do a background investigation on anybody ever applying to your agency who'd been a police officer?" he asks.

Doane's short tenure with BSO was consistent with his past behavior. Among several other sustained complaints against him, Doane was suspended for conduct unbecoming an officer after he and 17 other deputies attended a drunken bachelor party at a Holiday Inn in Palm Beach County that ended in public vomiting and a vandalized squad car. Several guests asked for refunds.

On Christmas Eve 1999, Doane ended his career and his life in a reckless race to a crime scene — a drive that easily could have left others dead. Doane had been booking a DUI suspect at the main jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale when a radio dispatcher announced that a deputy had been shot outside a café in Lauderdale Lakes. Although the incident was seven miles north, Doane asked someone to watch his prisoner and sped away. A subsequent BSO investigation estimated he was driving about 80 mph on State Road 7. Breaking BSO policy, he ran red lights without pausing and wasn't wearing a seat belt. As he barreled through a red light, he swerved to miss a car entering the intersection, lost control, and crashed into a concrete pole. He died 12 days later.

Despite Doane's life-endangering recklessness, Jenne declared him a hero, orchestrating a funeral held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, attended by 3,000 cops. The ceremony even included an eight-helicopter flyover in "missing man" formation.

Ultimately, though, BSO paid Kollin's client $19,000 in June 2003 in order to settle the lawsuit, but the case still makes Kollin's blood boil. "How many Doanes are in BSO?" he asks. Pondering the Lewis Perry case, he adds, "We have history repeating itself, a person improperly hired."

Germán Gomez made a newcomer's mistake on the evening he was shot. In a complex of look-alike façades, he and his cousin wandered into the wrong doorway. As the two fiddled with a key that didn't fit, an anxious neighbor noticed the men and called 911 about a possible burglary. Unfortunately for Gomez, Perry responded to that call.

Gomez's memory about that evening is shifty and unreliable because of his head wound. His cousin, Javier Dominguez, who's not living in South Florida now, told Kubiliun that the pair had their hands raised when Perry and Richard Mosca stopped them at the entrance of the apartment complex. As Mosca was cuffing Dominguez, they both heard a gunshot but didn't see what happened.

Two weeks after the shooting, Perry gave a statement to BSO investigators in which he claimed that his gun went off accidentally after Gomez bumped his arm. Perhaps only Perry knows what really happened. Judging from his statement, however, Perry's actions were consistent with his past.

When he arrived on the scene, Perry told investigators, he stepped out of his squad car, stood behind the door, and ordered them to stop. They kept walking toward his direction, so he drew his semi-automatic Glock handgun — despite having no reason to believe they were armed.

Perry told investigators that the scene was well-lighted and that he could see their hands. The investigator asked Perry if he could see if they were carrying anything. "I couldn't see if there's anything in their hands," Perry replied.

Moments later, the investigator asked, "OK, did they have any weapons in their hands that you could see?"

This time, Perry responded, "I did not see any weapons in their hands."

At the scene, Perry didn't communicate with Mosca, who'd arrived shortly after him. Mosca told investigators that he'd unfastened his holster but never drew his gun. He refastened the holster because he didn't want the suspects to get hold of the gun in the event of a struggle.

Perry wasn't so cautious. He told investigators he walked up behind Gomez, aiming his gun at him but keeping his finger outside the trigger guard. He shoved Gomez with his left hand. Gomez then turned around, and his arm hit Perry's right arm, and the gun went off, Perry claims.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest