Back on the Beat: retired homicide detectives serve as SAO investigators

(WSVN) - Being a homicide detective is stressful and challenging. After putting in years on the job, most look forward to retirement. But for others, even after retiring, the job never ends. 7’s Craig Stevens has more on how some officers go back on the beat.

People gunned down in the street — it happens too often in South Florida.

And in some cases, homicide detectives can spend decades trying to find the killers.

Eunice Cooper, State Attorney’s Office Special Investigator: “Once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get it out.”

Emiliano Tamayo, SAO Special Investigator: “I’d be a fool to tell you I didn’t miss it. I did miss it. I missed it tremendously.”

Emiliano Tamayo was a Miami police officer for 23 years, Eunice Cooper worked in the department for 34 years.

Both are now part of an elite group of former city and county detectives who’ve found a new calling.

They’re special investigators for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s gun violence unit.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney: “These folks could be retired. I often ask them, ‘Why do you do this? We don’t pay very much,’ and it’s a passion.”

Passion to serve their community.

Emiliano Tamayo: “You miss being out on the street and you miss the action. Don’t run after anybody anymore, but still enjoy the hunt. Still enjoy being the advocate for the victim and catching the bad guys.”

The team takes aim at Miami’s busy Northside, where innocent people die in the street.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle: “We said, ‘Let’s get into that 20-block square area. Let’s get the best minds, the best talent, the most experienced.'”

On this day, they are meeting at the Northside Police Station about ongoing investigations. They compare crime scene notes. They also work with witnesses and victims’ advocates to find justice for the victims.

Emiliano Tamayo: “I think we’re making a difference. We’re lending support to the police department, we’re teaching the new investigators how to be more proficient, how to do things smarter, make their cases solid.”

Miami Dade’s State Attorney says the strategy is working.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle: “We’re making better cases for prosecution in court. They’re not falling apart.”

When they’re not on the streets, they work unsolved murders — cold cases 7News has covered over the years, like Avis Coley’s murder in 1990.

We interviewed Tamayo back when he worked that case.

And there’s Brian Herrera’s murder from 2012. The Miami teen was riding his bike to a friend’s to do homework when he was shot and killed.

Cooper worked that case. She hopes to solve it someday, with the group’s help.

Eunice Cooper: “With all the experience collectively from all the retired homicide people, we have a great shot at looking at things and pulling together a whole bunch of different ideas. Ideas they hope will get the criminals off the streets.”

As a group, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s special investigators have more than 100 years of collective experience in homicide investigation.

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