Just four days later, Tavss was back on the beat. And before his shift ended, he had killed 29-year-old Lawrence McCoy Jr. Tavss said McCoy — who allegedly stole a cab and drove the wrong way on the MacArthur Causeway — had brandished a gun. As with Shehada, no weapon was discovered at the scene.

The department stood behind Tavss until September, when a drug test showed pot in his system. In November, he resigned — and picked up a $17,242.46 payout courtesy of Beach taxpayers.

Lawyer John Contini has announced plans to sue the department over both the deaths. "Citizens and tourists ought to boycott Miami Beach for their own safety," Contini says. "You may hope police will protect you, but who will protect you from the police?"

Illustrations by Pat Kinsella
Illustrations by Pat Kinsella

One of the strangest and most disturbing stories to hit the Miami Beach Police Department unfolded just last week.

Richard Anastasi retired on December 6 after almost 14 years on the force as an officer. He left with a fully vested pension and a $23,776.54 payout for unused vacation and sick time, according to city records.

According to a criminal complaint from the FBI, Anastasi's recent trouble started just past midnight on March 11. The victim, an unnamed Russian man, went to an apartment building on West Avenue where he believed a package was waiting for him. Instead, Anastasi and an accomplice, 42-year-old Francisco Arias, forced him into a Jeep and sped away.

Over the course of the next week, they threatened to cut off the Russian man's testicles with a knife, beat him, pointed semi-automatic weapons with laser sights at his head and held pliers to his teeth, the FBI claims. They forced him to call his mom in Russia to wire money and took $1,000. At one point, Arias allegedly told the man that he was going to die and that they would "use him as fertilizer."

The pair demanded $100,000, and the victim tricked them into a meeting last Thursday at 14th Street and Collins Avenue — with the feds listening in. When Anastasi and Arias rolled up in a black SUV, the FBI swooped in for the arrest. Inside the SUV, they found a grab bag of kidnapping tools, from a shotgun and rifle to duct tape and flex handcuffs to fake police badges.

Anastasi admitted to the FBI that he'd impersonated a cop and tried to scare the victim, though he denied trying to extort money from him. He faces federal charges that could carry a life sentence.

In his 14 years as a cop, Anastasi had 17 complaints in his internal affairs files — seven of which were substantiated and resulted in reprimands or suspensions.

Harold Strickland couldn't believe what he was seeing in his old neighborhood.

It was just past 1 a.m. on a balmy Friday in March 2009, and the 45-year-old Denver native was walking to his hotel after leaving Twist, where he had caught up with friends he hadn't seen since moving to Los Angeles five years earlier.

As he headed north on Michigan Avenue past Flamingo Park, Strickland noticed a couple of men kissing in a halogen-lit parking lot.

Then, suddenly, one of the men began to sprint north. Two plainclothes cops dashed after him. Half a block later, one officer tackled the runner to the asphalt and pinned his arms.

The slower cop approached, still running, and kicked the prone man's head like a football. Over the next six minutes and 50 seconds — a time lapse captured on tape after Strickland dialed 911 — the two officers punched and kicked the young man while berating him.

Strickland stayed on the line with a 911 dispatcher as he watched. As he described the beating to an operator, he suddenly sounded confused, adding, "They're coming after me." Hazzi and Forte forced him to lie on the ground, Strickland says. Then one of them said, "We know what you're doing here. We're sick of all the fucking fags in the neighborhood."

They later filed a police report accusing Strickland of trying to break into cars — a charge clearly contradicted by the 911 call record.

"What I saw that night was hate. Hate over the fact that someone is different," Strickland says. "Hate that someone's gender or sexuality is different. In my mind and heart, it was all based on hate."

According to several Beach activists, it's just the latest abuse by a force with a spotty, decadelong history relating to gays. Of course, the latest case also involves two officers with bad records.

The Miami Beach Police Department's first modern conflict with South Beach's gay community, by all accounts, came in late 1995 and early '96 when cops raided three gay clubs — Paragon, Twist, and Glam Slam — and busted dozens of patrons on drug charges. Gay leaders saw it as a crackdown on their community.

Police soon began larger outreach efforts to bridge the gap, and later that same year, the Miami Beach City Commission asked cops and gay leaders to collaborate on a new problem: gay men cruising Flamingo Park.

Gary Knight, then a member of the Beach's gay and lesbian task force, worked with police to spread the word that the park was off-limits. For the most part, the collaboration worked, Knight says, but "one officer was abusing his role right away, spending all his time in Flamingo and harassing anyone gay," Knight recalls.

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Two years later, in 2013, is this still true? Because my 8-yr-old son was violently kidnapped and believed murdered ... and I am still waiting for the US government - any agency, any level,  I'm not particular which - to find his body. And return it to me for burial. And to prosecute the killer. Especially when there are rumors all over the DC / Virginia / MD area, where the kidnap / killing occured, of at least one local law enforcement individual being involved; (police or FBI who assault and then are not found out for years, is not uncommon); when the original local police reports on the kidnap are "missing," etc. And so I wait day after day after day, as a grieving mother - and this is the worst grief  - for news of my little child. and for justice. and am told, there is not enough money. there are not enough "resources." the case is too "cold." 

If we are paying police more than we are paying the US Vice President, I expect them to be good enough to find a little boy's body. Even good enough to prevent our children from being slaughtered, to begin with. there should be no crime at all, at such salaries. Because I know that social workers and teachers are not making this much. and they are the ones interacting daily, with our children. and I know that when I stop - as a mother with very very little resources of her own, because i spend everything I can spare on my child's search - to help other families, standing under a bridge here in miami, for ex., with a baby with no shoes and no food and no diapers, in this heat and humidity all day ... that maybe those getting over $200k could be stopping, too. and yet these families tell me, that no one who looks like they can afford to stop, actually stops. 

So I just thought I would ask, as a mother, WHY you would pay so much to regular officers? when so many are going without. with little children. and there is so little dedicated to children's safety, or predator apprehension. and when many professions are in risk positions,  especially in fields like intelligence, and do not receive such salaries. I have said the same thing, so that I do not appear biased, as a federal contractor, about CEO salaries. Because it is a shame and dishonor to support companies, with tax relief and tax incentives, who then pay their executives several million. 

But I will tell you what one officer responded, when i went round a block recently, and asked him for help with a homeless person in a wheelchair - he said not to worry, that such people "want" to be homeless. I hope this officer was not one of those collecting over $200k. Perhaps if you dropped police salaries down to an even $150k, you could afford to collect less, in tickets? Or could afford to support homeless children more? or could afford to look for cold cases... when each "case" is really a suffering little child, screaming and begging for their mother - if we are to believe witnesses in my son's "cold case." 

I would expect every drunk, every drug dealer, every casino male, every worthless male criminal, to be shut up in a cage forever, if these are the salary levels, here in Miami. Because if police had done their jobs - or FBI - properly to begin with, my son would still be alive.