Deputy Do-Wrong

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Jesus and Galindo are visibly pained as they recall their passage through the desert. Shortly after crossing the border, they were spotted by crossing guards. In their mad dash to escape, they lost much of their water, Jesus says. As they plodded along, day after day, they stumbled upon a decayed corpse, horrifying evidence that they just might not survive this crossing. A man or a woman? Both shake their heads in revulsion, indicating they hadn't looked closely enough at the body to determine its gender.

Toward the end of the ten-day march, they were without food or water, and their wills were all but broken. "We were close to dying of thirst," Jesus says.

When a Border Patrol helicopter passed overhead, they waved, hoping it would pick them up and end their suffering. The chopper dipped, gave them a once-over, then flew off. But they were young, healthy, and lucky. They made it to Tucson, where they rested at the home of friends, waiting for five days for an acquaintance of their cousin's to pick them up and drive them to Pompano Beach.

After a journey that covered almost 4,000 miles over four weeks, they took one day off to rest. Then they went to work.

Jesus recalls the day of the shooting. He, Germán, and Dominguez had gone to a nearby labor pool office in the morning. The latter two had gone off to a construction site, and Jesus had gone to another. Jesus arrived back at the apartment first, and shortly after, he heard a flurry of activity outside. He and others from the building walked toward the police lights.

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."

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.

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Wyatt Olson
Contact: Wyatt Olson