An internal affairs investigation ended with a three-week suspension for the deputy, who also was faulted for other instances of poor judgment. He retired a day after he was disciplined.
WEST PALM BEACH - Alfredo Gomez had found Erin Heisler in her room, overdosed on drugs. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputy radioed dispatchers. First responders declared the 35-year-old woman dead.
Why was Gomez there? Because he'd been sleeping with the woman for six months, he later admitted to PBSO internal affairs investigators.
On July 8, PBSO suspended Gomez for three weeks for that and other alleged offenses covered in five separate internal affairs investigations, according to reports.
Gomez, 52, retired July 9, and the days he was suspended were deducted from his final paycheck, PBSO said Thursday.
Reports show Gomez, who was based in the sheriff’s Loxahatchee-Acreage district, had been the subject of numerous complaints "for his attitude and performance" since he was hired in January 2002.
He also had "approximately nine ’at fault’ " crashes, had been called out for speeding and had failed to turn on car and body cameras, according to sheriff’s records.
The five internal affairs investigations concluded, among other things, that he failed to turn in driver’s licenses and other IDs, a wallet, and a trash bag full of marijuana that he had collected while on duty. He also had made two separate unsubstantiated arrests, and investigators found "credible" the claims of two diner managers who said he showed them explicit photos, alleging they were of his body.
The internal affairs summary said Gomez's relationship with Heisler "destroyed the public respect and confidence for D/S Gomez and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office."
Gomez on Wednesday deferred comment to his Police Benevolent Association attorney. Neither the attorney nor the leader of the local PBA returned calls for comment.
Databases show Gomez previously worked in the South Bay, Ocean Ridge, Greenacres and Pahokee police departments and at Glades Correctional Institution.
’I didn't know she was back on the Xanax’
On the afternoon of Dec, 12, 2018, Gomez called authorities to a room at a Royal Palm Beach townhome that Heisler was renting from another deputy. He and the other deputy reported they found her, sitting and slumped, a needle in her arm. The other deputy denied knowing about Heisler's drug use and was cleared of wrongdoing.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Heisler died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl and the prescription drug Xanax.
Gomez told investigators he did not know Heisler was using "hard stuff," but said, "I knew she smoked pot." He said he'd told her, "Just don't do it in front of me." He said she never did, but "I could always smell it on her." He said he told her, "If you and me are going to hang out together, you can't be doing this stuff."
He later said he knew Heisler was using prescription drugs but did not know if she was abusing them. He then admitted the kitchen manager at a Royal Palm Beach cafe where Heisler worked had told him Heisler was misusing them.
Gomez told investigators he had met Heisler in the spring of 2018. The kitchen manager said Gomez had recommended Heisler for a job at the cafe, and after Heisler was hired, he often had eaten at the place.
The manager said she'd lectured Heisler after the woman sat with Gomez "hugging and kissing" while on the clock. Four days before Heisler's death, the kitchen manager said, Heisler was fired after she appeared high and the manager found a bottle of Xanax when Heisler dropped her purse. She said Heisler had told her earlier she was in recovery from a drug addiction.
The kitchen manager told investigators Gomez had told her, "I didn't know she was back on the Xanax."
Gomez also admitted he had used a PBSO computer in violation of the office’s rules after Heisler had asked him to check whether her driver’s license was suspended. Deputies may only make checks for criminal justice inquiries.
Both the kitchen manager and the general manager of the cafe told investigators that Gomez had, at separate times, shown them explicit photos and said they were of his body. He also had bragged about his prowess in bed and said that's why he had so many girlfriends, the managers said. Gomez later denied all that.
The internal affairs summary said Gomez "provided numerous contradictory statements" about the various incidents, It said "a preponderance of evidence does exist" for all the allegations except the cellphone photos, for which it said it didn’t have independent evidence, even though the managers' claims were "credible."
A big bag of marijuana
The same investigation revealed that a January search of Gomez's PBSO Ford F-150 pickup discovered nine pieces of identification.
One was the Social Security card of a man who said he'd lost his wallet in 2016 in Royal Palm Beach.
Five were Florida driver’s licenses, belonging to:
– A man Gomez had issued a traffic warning in December 2017 in The Acreage.
– A woman he'd stopped in May 2018 in The Acreage; it turned out to be expired, and Gomez should have confiscated it and turned it in, the internal affairs report said.
– A man Gomez found dead in October 2018 during a "welfare check" at the man's home near Royal Palm Beach; the medical examiner ruled the 56-year-old died of heart and liver disease.
– A man Gomez pulled over in November 2018 in The Acreage and who was found to be driving with a suspended license.
– A man, but investigators could not determine how Gomez obtained it and Gomez said he had no recollection.
Finally, there was the New York license of a man Gomez had arrested for domestic violence in September 2018; the report doesn't say where.
Gomez said he probably just forgot to turn in all the IDs.
Also found in Gomez's truck was a fingerprint card with two prints but no names. Gomez said he'd gone to a call and determined nothing criminal took place but he'd taken prints to "appease" the complainant.
Investigators also found that Gomez had reported finding a wallet at a supermarket on Okeechobee Boulevard, west of West Palm Beach; there was no evidence he turned it in. Gomez said he likely turned it in but could not recall.
And a tree trimmer reported he and co-workers had been on a job along Okeechobee when they smelled marijuana and found a large trash bag on the side of the boulevard. The trimmer said he called PBSO and later turned over the bag to Gomez, who he said he photographed throwing it into the back of his PBSO pickup.
Gomez wrote no offense report but noted in a log entry, "The bag has no evidentiary value," and never turned it in. He said a supervisor told him to throw the marijuana away in a dumpster if it had been ruined by rain or time, and that he had done so. The supervisor, since retired, told investigators he didn't recall the incident or what he might have said.
Speeding and unwarranted arrests
Each of the other four investigations also found "a preponderance of evidence" of wrongdoing.
In one, a supervisor did a random review of Gomez's in-car video from November 2018 and found that, while responding to calls with its lights and siren activated, Gomez had reached speeds of up to 81 mph, running at least one motorist off the road. He also had raced through neighborhoods and had driven 63 mph in a school zone, although school was not in session.
The report said a supervisor had called out Gomez in July 2018 for instances of speeding and that during Gomez's 17 years at PBSO, he had "approximately nine ’at fault’ " crashes. He also had lost rights to his vehicle at times.
In November 2017, the report said, his car had been outfitted with a recording system because he was the subject of several complaints "for his attitude and performance." The report didn't elaborate. It said Gomez often failed to activate either his in-car or body camera.
The internal affairs report cleared Gomez of the irresponsible driving allegation, saying he was on his way to legitimate calls, but sustained charges of loafing and not making sure his cameras were on.
A third investigation said Gomez was "discourteous, angry, rude and unprofessional" when he came in October 2018 to a home in Loxahatchee Groves where a 9-year-old with mental health issues allegedly was threatening to harm others and himself. A family friend later said Gomez arrested her without cause. Gomez said she was obstructing his work. The summary sided with the woman.
And in the fourth investigation, Gomez arrested the president of a homeowners association for disorderly intoxication at a building at Century Village near West Palm Beach during a dispute with a resident over smoking in common areas.
Gomez said the man smelled of alcohol and was threatening. Gomez said later he believed he made the right call. But the internal affairs report said the arrest was unwarranted.
In a fifth internal affairs investigation, signed off Aug. 1, Gomez was charged with making sexually suggestive comments while investigating a burglary and with contacting the person while off duty for reasons not related to work. Only the second charge was sustained, a summary says. The full report wasn't available Friday.