Freddy D’Agostino — whose career highlights include a severed head hitting him in the chest and being chosen as one of the nation’s top cops — retired from the Miami Police Department this week after a 35-year career.
D’Agostino, 57, surrounded by his wife Diana and two children, Rafaele, 7 and Sophia, 5, accepted a plaque in his honor from Deputy Police Chief Luis Cabrera at City Hall on Thursday morning.
“It’s an honor,” D’Agostino said. “If you don’t know anything about police work, it’s tough.”
Born and raised in Miami, D’Agostino graduated from Miami High and went on to Miami Dade College. Then D’Agostino said he and a friend became mesmerized by television ads used to recruit police in the early 1980s. It was the height of a decade of cocaine-fuled mayhem that made Miami one of the focal points of the nation.
He spent his early years patrolling the dangerous streets of Little Havana and Coconut Grove. But it was an unexpected and horrific event in 1985 that shot D’Agostino into the national spotlight: As he was patrolling near the Metrorail station off Bird Road, he ran into a man holding a severed head.
The man, who had stabbed his girlfriend 141times before dismembering her, tossed the head at D’Agostino. It hit him in the chest.
“I didn’t know what it was,” D’Agostino said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Eight years later as a member of SWAT, D’Agostino would make 451 arrests, help recover 41 stolen vehicles and receive 75 commendations in a single year. In 1994, he visited the White House and was named one of the nation’s Top Ten cops by President Bill Clinton.
He ended his 35-year career as a commander in the city’s Upper East Side. D’Agostino said he hasn’t yet found a part-time job to fill his time after retirement. But if he finds something he likes, he’ll jump on it. He’s likely to do a little fishing.
“He’s a part of the history of the city of Miami,” said Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.
The case of the decapitated head
Here is a Miami Herald story from 1985 on the case:
A man accused of decapitating his girlfriend and hurling her head at a policeman was described Sunday by a bewildered relative as "obsessed" with religion and devil worship since returning from California on a business trip.
Alberto Mesa, 23, charged with first-degree murder in the Saturday slaying of Dina Tormos, "talked about the devil like he talked about God, " said his brother, Rene Mesa. "We don't know what happened. He got that obsession after he came back from California. We don't understand what happened, what's wrong."
Mesa, whose hobby was music, worked for a company that buys and sells musical instruments, the brother said. He said the firm, whose name he did not know, sent Alberto Mesa to California for four or five days in late January.
The family noticed the change immediately.
"He began to talk and do strange things about the Bible and the devil, " Rene Mesa said. "We didn't understand.
"We believe in the Bible, " he added. "We are religious, we are Catholic. But nobody in my family is fanatic."
Rene Mesa, his wife and daughter were home asleep at 6:30 a.m. Saturday when a rock crashed against a bathroom window. It was Alberto, who was outside, naked and screaming.
"He was like crazy, " Mesa said.
"Call the police!" he said his brother screamed. "Somebody tried to kill me. I killed them!"
"It was dark, " Rene Mesa said. "I saw his arms with blood. I saw him with something in his hands, but I couldn't see what it was."
The "something" was apparently the head of Tormos, the 18- year-old woman whom Alberto Mesa had dated for six months, police said.
Police said Alberto Mesa walked nude down Southwest 33rd Avenue near 29th Terrace, carrying the woman's severed head by her hair.
Shouting, "I killed her. She's the devil!" Mesa threw the head at a 22-year-old policeman. The officer jumped out of the way, then tried to calm the hysterical suspect, detectives said.
Rene Mesa, an air-conditioning technician, said his brother lived in an efficiency on the same property as his parents. Alberto "lived his own life, " he said. "He was a very quiet kid."
Rene Mesa said he never met Tormos.
The victim's body, which police said had "40 to 50 stab wounds" from a hunting knife, was found on the floor of a bathroom entrance at Mesa's apartment at 2798 SW 33rd Ave.
Tormos, whose family is from New Jersey, had worked as a cashier and waitress at the Steak and Egg Kitchen in Coral Gables for a few weeks around Christmas.
Employees there said she went by the name "Drew, " not Dina, but they didn't know where she had been working since.
They also said that a man identifying himself as her father stopped by Sunday. He told them his daughter was killed in an accident, and was looking for friends of hers so he could get into her apartment and gather her belongings, the employees said.
Alberto Mesa's father, Rene Sr., a dental technician, and his mother Dignora, a manicurist, are "very, very upset, " the brother said.
"He never had any problems, " Rene Mesa said. "Nobody can believe it. It's so strange it's incredible."