By David Ovalle and Charles Rabin
A jury late Thursday acquitted a retired Miami police lieutenant who was accused of impersonating an officer after he had retired.
Nestor Garcia was acquitted of impersonating a police officer and false imprisonment. Jurors deliberated less than an hour, and Garcia’s supporters burst into tears when the verdict was read.
His arrest stemmed from an incident in February of 2018, five months after his retirement from the department. According to Miami police, Garcia spotted a man tossing out garbage in front of an apartment in the 2700 block of Southwest Fifth Street that night and pulled up in his Honda.
Then the ex-cop and a Miami police officer who had been parked nearby approached the man. Garcia said he was a Miami police officer and was there because he heard complaints about people selling marijuana. After searching the man’s apartment, Garcia left the scene.
At trial, defense lawyer Sam Rabin argued that Garcia was acting lawfully, under the command of the young cop.
“It’s common sense that he might rely on Nestor while he was there,” Rabin told jurors during closing arguments.
Garcia, who retired from the Miami police department late in 2017, has a colorful past.
Back in 1992, he was featured in a Miami Herald story about contradictions in police shootings. That same year Garcia chased a man driving on State Road 836 that he believed was a murder suspect from Miami Beach. When the man bailed from his vehicle, Garcia chased him on foot.
In the man’s arrest report, Garcia said Wallace Brimer pointed a gun at him during the chase and Garcia responded by firing five times at him and missing. Eventually he caught up to Brimer and took him into custody. No weapon was ever found and prosecutors eventually dropped the charges.
Brimer turned out to be an auto glass installer from Alabama who was driving with a suspended license.
In 2008 Garcia was voted Officer of the Year by his peers at the Miami Police Department.
In 2016, Garcia, while working the property room at the Miami Police Department, brought to light the hundreds of pieces of evidence that were stored in containers behind the police department and under an I-95 overpass that had been soaked through, rotted and were full of mold.
The findings became controversial and forced the department to undertake the painful and time-consuming task of going through every piece of evidence to see if any trials were tainted or if evidence had been destroyed that could impact upcoming trials.