Family of former Miami-Dade police director still searching for answers after suicide

It happened the day after his 62nd birthday: Bobby Parker shot himself across the street from his Miami home.

Two years after his death, Parker’s police family still has no answers. His wife of nearly 40 years along with his three children, are living with the mystery every day.

The Parkers looked through pictures, remembering the rock of their family.

“I could not have imagined a better father for my kids,” Veronica Parker said about her late husband. “He said, ‘All you have to do is get up and breathe. I’ll take care of the rest.'” 

Bobby Parker was also the patriarch of an extended family — the Miami-Dade Police Department — for 33 years.

In 2004, he became the first black police director.

In July 2015, six years after he retired, Bobby Parker took his own life.

“I’ve torn this house apart. I tore the Georgia house apart. I tore the North Carolina house apart — (and found) nothing,”   Veronica Parker said. “I looked through his phone. His iPad. His personal papers — nothing.”

Veronica Parker recalls her husband being happy the day he died.

“The storm came and then the lights went out,” she said. “I was standing in the front yard and my sons, they went to the back, and I heard them scream. They said ‘Daddy, no.’ I knew it wasn’t good. And that’s when I saw him.” 

When Veronica Parker saw her husband’s body she closed his eyes and laid on top of him. 

“I think it was rescue that took me off,” she said. 

Parker’s two sons took Local 10 News’ Calvin Hughes to the canal across from their home, where they found their father’s body.

“I just broke down in tears. Never thought I would find my father here laying down,” Robert Parker  Jr. said. “It’s been very tough. Think about him every day.”

Kyron Parker said he thanks God daily for the time he had with his father. 

“It was just so unexpected,” Kalika Parker said about her father. “For someone to be so happy at that time. You just never know. And the reason we believe it was mental illness is he just didn’t display the signs.” 

Veronica Parker said her husband’s passing wasn’t just a loss for her and her family, but for the community.

“His race was done and we finished his race. And it was time for him to go. His work was done here,”  Veronica Parker said.

Friday would have been Bobby Parker’s 64th birthday. In remembrance of the former police director,  Veronica Parker is having a celebration at 790 South Biscayne River Drive in Miami.

She is accepting donations for the foundation named in his honor two years ago, hoping to raise $1 million. Donations can be made through the family’s GoFundMe account. 

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Opioid epidemic overwhelms Delray Beach

As the midday sun shines down on Delray Beach City Hall, two men are taking drugs in the parking lot.

Shortly after, firefighters arrive – one of them men had overdosed.

It takes a triple dose of the opioid- reversing drug Narcan to bring the 25-year-old back. But many aren’t so lucky.

“You probably hear 10 or 12 ambulances a day go by and every time you know it’s another,” Sarah Esptein, owner of Just Hearts in Delray Beach, said.

Epstein said she has seen people die at her doorstop from overdoses.

“It’s just getting out of control,” she said.

In part because of its vibrant downtown, Delray Beach has become a hub for more than 100 sober homes, which are places where people come to free themselves of their addictions.

“People understand that there’s a need for valid treatment, but unfortunately, the unscrupulous operators far outnumber those that were in this for the right reasons a long time ago,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said.

The sobering truth is that many leave Delray Beach in a body bag.

“In fact, if you look at the statistics relative to the overdoses it would suggest they’re accomplishing nothing,” Glickstein said.

Under the current regulatory system, Glickstein said there’s actually no real incentive for recovery.

Under the Affordable Care Act, every relapse is treated as a new injury and those insurance benefits start anew.

The cost of dealing with the problem is staggering.

This year, the city is projected to spend more than $3 million on personnel and equipment for first responders who deal with overdoses. 

“I don’t think anybody wants to die, but they cannot just not shoot up,” Delray Fire Battalion Chief Todd Lynch said.  

In some cases, fire rescue may make a run to treat the same person several times a day.

“What’s disconcerting is I don’t see a stopping point yet,” Palm Beach County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Bell said.

The problem is also putting a strain on the Palm Beach County medical examiners office.

“We’re going to have another 200-plus increase in total workload because of these drug fatalities predominantly,” Bell said.

And the overdoses are not confined to young people.

“It’s not the 20s or the 30s, it’s the 40s, 50s and 60s. We’ve had a couple of 70s,” Bell said.

Gov. Rick Scott recently declared a state of emergency for the opioid-addiction epidemic, which will allow $27 million in federal funding.   

Considering Delray’s costs alone — that may not go very far.

“If you have people checking into a hospital for two weeks and they check out and die a week later, there would be major repercussions,” Glickstein said.

Lynch said something needs to change.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but something’s got to change. We can’t keep doing the same things,” Lynch said.

On Tuesday night, Delray Beach passed an ordinance that puts specific requirements on residential sober homes — something they hope will give them more muscle in managing unscrupulous operators.

The city is also following in the footsteps of several cities across the country, planning to file suit against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly fueling the opioid epidemic.

 

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Backlog blamed for group’s canceled trip to Smithsonian African-American museum

From the moment the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors in Washington last year, the 1963 graduating class of Miami Northwestern Senior High School began planning a trip.

“You don’t know the people (who) paved the way for you all to be where you are now,” Claudette Farrington said. “So, yeah, it really meant a lot to us to go to this museum.” 

Originally an all-black school, many alumni at Miami Northwestern were part of the civil rights movement. 

“I always tell my children about those days and they just, you know, to them, it’s crazy,” Farrington said. “But they don’t understand.” 

Farrington’s graduating class has stayed close since high school and has planned trips and funded scholarships for current students. 

Classmate Alphonso Walker now lives in Maryland, and when the museum opened in September, he and Farrington got to work planning a trip. 

Passes for the museum are free, but they said the museum instructed them to request group passes online for their group of nearly 60 people. They did that in February and got an automated reply. 

Farrington said the message said: “If we are not able to fulfill your request, we will contact you with instructions for how to select another date and time.” 

Farrington said the email from the museum’s ticket vendor said someone would contact them within 14 days to confirm or let them know if they needed to choose another date for their visit.

When that didn’t happen, they assumed the passes would come in the mail. 

The group chartered two buses, booked hotels and restaurants for the long road trip. But those arrangements would eventually be canceled.  

Weeks later, they had no passes and no one to answer emails or calls. 

“I think the longest I held on was four hours one day. I got so tired of listening to music,” Farrington said.

By late March, Walker said he got an email confirming passes, but they were for August, not July. Then an email came from the museum stating Walker had agreed to accept passes for August. 

Walker said he had not talked to anyone at the museum about changing the date. 

“It hurts, you know, because we were so excited about the trip,” Farrington said.

A museum spokeswoman, Shrita Hernandez, sent Local 10 News a statement that read: “We, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, are honored to have welcomed nearly 2 million visitors since opening last September. We are humbled by the support and interest in the museum, and take every action to receive as many visitors as possible. We are sorry that we cannot accommodate everyone who wants to visit. We will continue working with Claudette Farrington and her classmates to find a time for their visit.” 

“I went on their webpage a couple weeks ago and now they’ve stopped giving group passes,” Farrington said. 

A representative for the museum said that’s because there was a backlog of over 30,000 requests for group passes.

Farrington said they are still hoping to plan a trip for next year’s 55th class reunion — but at 71 years old, she said planning a trip like this isn’t easy and they don’t want to wait much longer.  

“We said, ‘We don’t know how long we have, you know, and we really, really (were) excited about going on this trip, because next year we don’t know who’s going to be with us,” Farrington said. 

Local 10 News checked back with the museum about the status of group passes and a representative said they are still working on a timeline for when those passes will be available in the future. 

Farrington said that her group is getting 60 passes for a visit in June next year. 

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Some accused co-conspirators of Broward County employee missing, authorities say

Some of the accused co-conspirators of a Broward County employee, who was recently arrested for allegedly using forged documents to steal more than $1.6 million, are nowhere to be found.

Roberto Martinez was arrested July 6 for allegedly helping to rip off $1.6 million in taxpayers’ money meant for unfortunate residents who’d lost their homes.

A week later, four of his alleged co-conspirators, including accused ringleader Marc Eugene, his sister, Patricia Eugene, and his brother, Denis Eugene, remain at large.

Attorneys for the Eugene’s said prosecutors set a deadline for them to turn themselves in.

That deadline was Thursday and now the Broward Sheriff’s Office is actively searching for them.

Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman knocked on the door at the Eugene’s listed address.

A woman, who identified herself as their grandmother, said through a translator on the phone that they had gone back to Haiti because of a death.

“Somebody died and they went to Haiti,” she said.

Marc Eugene’s attorney, Howard Schumacher, said he was 100 percent certain that his client was not in Haiti and said that Eugene was trying to come up with collateral so he could post bail, which is set at more than $400,000 in his case.

Schumacher said he was confident Eugene would turn himself in eventually, but couldn’t guarantee it.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of another suspect, Gawens St. Victor, are also unknown.

Martinez remains at the Broward County Jail on a $915,000 bond.

A fifth co-defendant, Dim Vallarson, was arrested July 7 in Massachusetts on fraud charges and is awaiting extradition to Broward County.

 

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Are sex offenders living where you shop? Some use shopping centers as addresses

Most people know how to search their home address online to see if any sex offenders are living in their area, but checking a local shopping center — that option often goes under the radar.

More than a dozen sex offenders considered  homeless or transient in South Florida use local stores such  Walmart as their registered address.

And here’s the thing, it’s totally legal.

When Rachel Pirana recently came with her son to a Walmart on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale — she had no idea five registered sex offenders use the intersection in front of the store as their listed address.

There were similar trend in other neighborhoods.

“That should be illegal,” Pirana said.

More than a dozen transient sex offenders and sexual predators use local stores or the intersections near them as their registered address.

Local 10 News found a sex offender lists the Walmart in Hallandale Beach as his address, a sexual predator who lists the Salvation Army on Broward Boulevard as his residence and in Lauderdale Lakes another offender puts the area near Walgreens, next door to a Walmart.

 “That’s really scary. That’s alarming,” Jillian Lenkowitz, a shopper said.

Local 10 News showed shoppers the three registered sex offenders who use the corner by their Walmart on State Road 7 and Hollywood Boulevard as their address.

“So anybody could just put any address and live wherever they want,” Lenkowitz said.

Captain Ed Sileo, with Broward Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division said there are no law against being homeless so in reality they’re allowed to put down almost anything.

He said offenders and predators are required to register an address with the county courthouse–or in the case of transient sex offenders, the closest landmark.

And yes, there is there a concern that they could have another residence and they’re just using this as a false address.

“They do from time to time,” Sileo said. “We will do those follow up investigations to find out if that’s accurate.”

Sileo said  most offenders have cellphones and comply with  deputies, who check in on them two to three times a month.

“To my knowledge we have never had an incident where a transient sex offender has ever committed a crime at any of these locations,” Sileo said.

Local 10 News asked Walmart to weigh in on the issue and in a statement Charles Crowson, a senior manager for corporate communications said:  “It’s disturbing to know convicted felons are listing our store as their residential address. We condemn such a practice and must refer any other questions to law enforcement.”

If a sex offender does want to move on to another location they have just 48 hours to notify BSO of their new location and if they fail to do that BSO said authorities will issue a warrant for their arrest.

BSO said changing the registration process to prevent transient offenders from using local businesses as their address would require action from state lawmakers.

Meanwhile, shoppers said they will be looking over their shoulders from now on.

 “I don’t think that’s right because you’ve got children here, you’ve got women alone, you’ve got elderly people,” Jessie Miller said. 

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Man says he was forced out of his apartment for being gay

A South Florida man has filed suit, claiming his landlord forced him out of his apartment because he is gay.

Federico Garcia also claims the landlord tried to intimidate him with a gun.

 The Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights has investigated and it believes what happened was discriminatory.

“I was kicked out of the apartment building because after four years they found out I was gay,” Garcia said.

Garcia said life at Porta Di Ora was perfect until he showed a little public display of affection with his boyfriend, Tyler King. 

“They saw us holding hands in hallway,” he said.

 Garcia not only claims his lease was terminated because of his sexual orientation, but says when he went to talk to landlord Ricardo Martin about renewing his lease, Martin pull out a pistol.

“(I said) ‘I need you to let me have my dogs back.’ Right when I said that (he)  immediately reaches in his belt behind his back, puts a gun on the table and says ‘Your dogs aren’t coming back in the building.'”

Martin denies kicking Garcia out because he is gay.

“No sir,”Martin said. “I suggest you talk to my lawyer.”

He gave another reason for not renewing the lease.

“They had a couple of dogs that were not service dogs here,” Martin said.

While Martin said it was a dog issue, Garcia said several other tenants have dogs.

“Almost every floor of the ninth floors,” Garcia said. “There is at least two to three dogs on each floor.”

Garcia said he lived in the building for four years with his dogs and his landlord approved of it.

He said Martin once told him “The official policy here is no dogs, but you don’t have a problem….We like your dogs. They are small.”

Attorney Matthew Dietz, who represents Garcia in a newly filed lawsuit, says the dogs only became an issue after the landlord found out Garcia was gay.

“You look to see who else they enforced this against,” Garcia said. “And when the evidence is so overwhelming that they didn’t enforce it on anyone else, then you know for a fact that they discriminated against him for his being gay.”

As for the gun, Martin said he has a permit for it and was packing it up for the day.

“I put my gun on the desk to leave the office,” Martin said.

He said he was not trying to intimidate him with the weapon.

“My gun was always holstered,” Martin said.

While Martin said all the other dogs in the building at the time Garcia lived there were service dogs, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

When the rights commission investigated Garcia’s claim another tenant testified to the commission that he had a dog and that it was not a service animal.

When this was brought up to Martin he said, “I will leave that up to the attorney to answer.”

Martin said he is appealing the findings of the commission.

He went on to add that he feels like the victim in this case.

“Actually, I think I am the one that has been discriminated against,” Martin said. “I don’t discriminate against anyone.” 

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