HOMESTEAD — A Planning and Zoning Board member has been arrested following an alleged assault on two elderly neighbors, according to authorities.
Eric A. Geen, 57, is charged with four felonies: two counts of burglary with assault or battery, and two counts of battery on a person over the age of 65, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Geen is currently on monitored release, but continues to serve on the board, which makes recommendations to the city council on applications for development in the city.
“Number one, the case against me is still in the hands of the judicial system, and it has not been adjudicated, so I’m innocent until proven guilty, if I remember correctly,” Geen told the South Florida Times.
“Eric A. Geen, on or about June 29, 2009, in the County and State aforesaid, did unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly commit battery upon Cesar Rojas, a person sixty-five (65) years of age or older, by actually and intentionally touching or striking said person against said person’s will,” Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Sasha Bardelas alleged in a July 20, 2009 court filing detailing one of the charges.
At a June 15, 2009 meeting, Homestead city council members approved an ordinance that requires background checks on advisory board members.
“It is our understanding that this is an ongoing criminal investigation,'' city of Homestead spokeswoman Lillian Delgado said in a written statement submitted to The Miami Herald. “When the investigation is complete, if warranted, appropriate actions will be taken.”
Delgado did not respond to calls or emails from the South Florida Times. It is unclear whether the city conducted a background check on Geen.
Geen, who stands at 6 foot 1 and weighs 240 pounds, has a record that includes an arrest on Sept. 17, 2007 for disorderly intoxication. For reasons that were not clarified in Miami-Dade County court records, that case was not prosecuted.
Geen said he has served on various city advisory boards over the years, and that he has been on the Planning and Zoning Board for about two years.
“There is no one in the city administration who has contacted me about this, and they all know about the June 29 thing,” Geen explained. “I am not under investigation and I am not being asked to resign from the city of Homestead Planning and Zoning board.”
Records on file with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office show that Geen was arrested by Homestead police on June 29, and is out of jail on the county’s monitored release program.
He is free on $20,000 bail pending the resolution of the case, under these conditions: He must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, and is required to stay away from the neighbors with whom he is accused of fighting.
Geen declined to discuss the details of the incident.
Here’s what happened, according to the police report:
At around 4:30 p.m. on the evening of June 29, Victoria Rojas arrived at her home in the 400 block of S.E. 22nd Lane. She found a car blocking her driveway.
She blew her horn, and asked the driver to move out of the way. Geen exited the other car in a rage, cursing at her. She put her windows up, and he began banging on them.
She then let a window down, and said she smelled alcohol on Geen’s breath. She apologized so that Geen would leave her alone. Geen got back into his car and moved it out of Rojas’ way. She went inside her home.
A short time later, Geen was banging on Rojas’ front door. When her husband, Cesar Rojas, answered, Geen forced his way in, yelling obscenities. Cesar Rojas tried to calm him down, but Geen pushed him to the ground, and stumbled outside, police said.
Cesar Rojas went outside to see if he was OK, and Geen attacked him again, and began choking him while Rojas was on the ground, police said.
“Def. [Geen] jumped on V-1 [victim one, Cesar Rojas] & began strangling him (restricting his airway) & banging his head on the ground,” Homestead police wrote in their report.
The police report continues: Victoria Rojas then went next door to the home of Helo Lachapelle, seeking help. According to the police report, Lachapelle said he saw Geen on top of Rojas, choking him. Lachapelle grabbed a small, children’s baseball bat and yelled to Geen to stop the choking. When Geen did not stop, Lachapelle began hitting Geen on the back, demanding that he stop choking Cesar Rojas.
When Geen still did not let go, Lachapelle tried to hit him with the bat again on the back, but he missed and struck Geen’s head. Geen let go and Cesar Rojas fell over.
Lachapelle retreated into his own garage. Geen followed him, allegedly stating, “Your [sic] a dead man walking,” several times.
Inside the garage, Geen allegedly confronted Lachapelle, who distracted Geen by yelling, “Hey, don’t hit him,’’ in an effort to make Geen believe someone was behind him. When Geen turned to look, Lachapelle hit him in the head with the baseball bat, causing him to fall outside in the driveway.
When police arrived, they saw Geen lying on the ground. He was combative with police officers and fire-rescue personnel. Police had to handcuff Geen so paramedics could treat him.
“Per all the residents of the neighborhood the def. [defendant] has been violent in the past & they are all in fear of the Def,” the police report says. “They all believe the Def. Might harm, if not kill them when he is released.’’
No trial date has been set in the case. Attempts to reach the prosecuting attorney and the public defender representing Geen were unsuccessful. Geen said he believes the case could be dismissed.
“I’m fully confident it’s going to be thrown out,” he said.
Photo: Eric A. Geen