Miami drug cops broke down wrong door, beat schoolteacher

Police blotter

February 12, 1979

The Drug War has been brutal since its inception, as this archive story reminds us. In 1979, a Miami schoolteacher received a surprise raid from brutal Metro police officers, who proceeded to beat him and his family because they mistook them for ‘dope’ suspects. The homeowner was beaten so badly that his skull was fractured and he suffered ongoing head injuries. The police were all absolved of wrongdoing.

The Associated Press wrote:

MIAMI (AP) — Nathaniel LaFleur says he was watching television when someone knocked on his door. Moments later, he said, police were kicking and pistol-whipping him, asking him about drugs.

Nathaniel LaFleur
Nathaniel LaFleur

Police said Tuesday they made a mistake when they raided LaFleur’s home Monday night.

Metro Sheriff E. Wilson Purdy said LaFleur’s address wasn’t the one listed on a search warrant served by five officers. He said the officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending an investigation.

LaFleur, whose head is bandaged, said when he asked who was at the door Monday, he heard an unfamiliar name.

“I opened the door and there were these policemen standing there pointing a gun that looked like one you use to shoot elephants,” the 48-year-old school teacher said.

“I slammed the door and locked it.”

LaFleur said he ran into his bedroom and dialed the county’s three-digit emergency telephone number.

He said he “told the police that the police were breaking into my house.”

Officers smashed down the front door and broke through the wooden door to the bedroom, LaFleur said, adding that they threw him on the bed, beat him and demanded to know where the drugs were.

He said he wasn’t read his rights or taken to a hospital until police finished searching his northwest Miami home nearly three hours later.

LaFleur’s skull was fractured and his ribs were broken. His son, Hollice, 21, received eye and knee injuries after being brutalized by police. LaFleur’s wife was also beaten during the raid.

What’s more, the battered schoolteacher was charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

The five officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing by the state attorney’s office. They were identified as Vincent Farina, Russell Fischer, John Mullally, Robert Singer, and James Leggett.

LaFleur didn’t do well physically after his head injuries. He reportedly went into an unexplained coma some time after his beating.

Mr. LaFleur sued for $3 million. He received only $20 thousand.

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