By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Coconut Creek Police Chief Michael J. Mann, who less than a week ago publicly declared that there was “no cover up” in his department’s ongoing investigation of city officers who shot and killed a man with Tasers, was forced to resign on Wednesday.
Mann’s unexpected departure happened after he was summoned to City Manager Mary Blasi’s office and told he “must resign” immediately, according to police sources.
Blasi did not respond to requests for comment. No one answered the phone at Mann’s office.
However, in a farewell email to his troops on Wednesday afternoon, Mann made no mention of being forced out.
“All good things must come to an end. I have made a decision that, after 38 years in law enforcement, I will be retiring. It’s been an awesome ride but, for the good of the department I think it is time for a change in leadership.”
He added that “after a discussion with the city manager, Captain Justin N. DiCintio will be acting chief until the return of Deputy Chief (Greg) Lees.” Lees is away for the month for training.
A press release put out later by the city identified Lees as the new acting chief. The city said Mann’s retirement is effective March 26, though police sources said he was told to vacate his office by the end of the day.
Mann, a veteran of 21 years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was sworn in as Coconut Creek’s chief in October 2009.
The Feb. 24 death of Calvon “Andre” Reid, 39, is the latest in a series of controversies under Mann’s leadership.
The shooting in the Andros Isle section of the Wynmoor retirement community off Florida’s Turnpike occurred about 1 a.m. on Feb. 22. Police did not publicly disclose the incident, or that a death had occurred, before FloridaBulldog.org published the first account of what happened on Feb. 27.
Eyewitnesses John Arendale and his fiancé, Bonnie Eshleman, told a reporter that as many as four police officers fired four Taser shots in two volleys. And that after the first volley, about five policemen “were around and on top of the man” who yelled out, “Baby! They are going to kill me” and “I can’t breathe.”
Arendale and Eshleman’s apartment is steps away from where Reid was shot with the Tasers and where he went down. Police detectives did not interview them until the day after their account appeared on this news site.
The dead man’s father, Calvin Reid of Simpsonville, South Carolina, is skeptical about the version of events he’s heard from police.
“I really don’t buy any of this,” said Reid, a building contractor. “We don’t the the cause of death. We don’t know why he was there…We couldn’t talk to the doctors at the hospital. There are so many unanswered questions.”
The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office has refused to release its autopsy report citing a “hold” on it by the Coconut Creek police.
The Reid family has retained Fort Lauderdale attorney Jarrett Blakeley to represent them.
The police, under Mann’s leadership, threw an immediate veil of secrecy over the matter that didn’t end until Mann held a press conference to make a limited statement about what happened on March 5.
Mann read from a prepared statement, noting that Margate Fire Department paramedics first responded to the scene in response to a 911 call. They found Reid in the parking lot in an “agitated combative and incoherent state” suffering from “numerous cuts on his hands, arms and chest and his clothing was torn and bloodstained,” the chief said.
“Mr. Reid became more aggressive on the scene which caused safety concerns for the paramedics who were attempting to help him,” the chief said.
The paramedics summoned police. Mann said Reid was so agitated that officers didn’t know if they were dealing with a victim, suspect or crazy person. When Reid refused to comply with orders to stop resisting, “Taser use became necessary for the officers’ safety as well as for Mr. Reid’s own safety,” Mann said.
Reid died two days later at Northwest Regional Medical Center.
Mann declined to discuss in detail what police sources said was his department’s failure to have its officers re-certified in the use of Tasers, including the officers who opened fire on Reid. Annual recertification is required by state law.
Mann, who carried his own Taser, told reporters he was re-certified, but said the question of whether other officers were properly re-certified was “part of the investigation.”
A police source, however, said the Taser certifications expired in 2007.
In January, FloridaBulldog.org reported how between 2010 and 2012 the Coconut Creek Police botched 82 criminal cases involving disturbing reports about children who were raped and abused and seniors who were neglected or exploited.
As with Reid’s death, the police department did not inform the public about what had happened. Police Detective Tammy Alois was fired, but no one was held criminally responsible for the resulting lack of charged and failed prosecutions that resulted.
In 2013, the department became the unwanted focus of attention due to another incident in which Patrolman James Yacobellis pulled and activated his Taser while interrogating a frightened, 19-year-old theft suspect in a bathtub. Yacobellis was fired last month after he was caught last year on a police video getting a massage at a Boca Raton spa that police said was a front for prostitution.
An investigation by FloridaBulldog.org found that investigations of the bathtub taser incident by both the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Coconut Creek Police were seriously deficient.
Broward prosecutors who declined to charge Yacobellis never ask him under oath why he hadn’t mentioned the incident in his police report. The Coconut Creek’s own investigation omitted relevant facts and did not follow department policy.
The person that Chief Mann chose to lead that investigation was a police captain who had never worked as a detective: Capt. John Di Cintio.