While we were unable to reach the Police Department this evening for official confirmation, a source close to the investigation has confirmed that two police constables, both attached to the Punta Gorda Police Station, and who were detained throughout the day, were charged just before six this evening with the murder of Punta Gorda resident Michael Valerio, 47, and harm to two other residents of the town after a deadly incident on Sunday evening.
Valerio and his friend Noel George Lopez, 34, had a run-in with the officers around 10:10 p.m. while they and some friends were on the verandah of Central Club on Front Street near the center of town. Valerio was staying in a room in the back of the building.
Two of the men with whom Valerio, aka “Street,” was hanging out told a well-informed Punta Gorda source that the officers, who were off-duty and were in white “strongman” shirts and police regulation pants and boots, kept asking about a bicycle, which they knew nothing about, and reportedly insulted and threatened other persons in the area at the time.
Owner of the club and Commissioner of the Supreme Court, Louis Braddick, told our Punta Gorda source that he witnessed the allegedly drunk officers beating Valerio right in front of him; one, he said, even hit him on his hand when he tried to intervene, causing him to make a report to Punta Gorda police as well.
A trail of bloodstains starting outside his premises and leading up to the room where he stayed was mute evidence of the fatal encounter between Valerio and the policemen.
Officially, police report that Lopez visited the station around eleven on Sunday night and reported the beating.
This morning at the weekly press conference called at the Racoon Street Police Station, Inspector Fitzroy Yearwood, department press officer, said that police learned of Valerio’s injuries after Lopez, having made his report, was taken by officers at the station to the Punta Gorda Hospital.
While going to the hospital, they passed the club, and Louis Braddick called their attention to Valerio, who was still at his premises and needed urgent medical attention.
Valerio had sustained cut wounds to the head, body and left side of his face, among other injuries. Both men were then taken to the hospital, where Lopez was treated for his injuries and released, but Valerio would die around midnight while getting treatment.
The accused officers have also been charged with harm to both Lopez and Braddick, according to our source.
At the press conference, Inspector Yearwood said that at this early stage of the simultaneous criminal and internal investigations ordered by Police Commissioner David Henderson into the incident, a motive for the incident has not yet been determined. He said that the officers were allegedly under the influence of alcohol during the attack.