Miami Beach mayoral candidate Mike Grieco acknowledged Thursday that an incident in which he left a bag unattended with a loaded gun inside at the South Pointe Park dog park “shouldn’t have happened,” saying he put the bag down and that “somebody grabbed it before I realized it.”
“It is still my fault,” Grieco said during an interview with the Miami Herald Editorial Board. “If I’m away from it for even a second, it was my fault.”
A woman walking in the open-air dog park found Grieco’s black cross-body bag on a bench around 11 a.m. on Aug. 13 and discovered a loaded Glock 43 handgun inside. She brought the bag to the Miami Beach police station, telling an officer she had “done my good deed for the day.”
Reached by phone Friday, the woman declined to comment and asked not to be identified.
Inside the bag was the gun, a wallet, about $60 in cash, pepper spray and a badge from Grieco’s former role as a state representative. Body-worn camera video shows the officer emptying the gun, which had six 9-millimeter rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, according to an incident report.
Grieco, a former state prosecutor who said he is a permitted gun owner, initially said the bag was “stolen” while he was walking his dog but declined to offer additional details.
In subsequent interviews, he has said it was “snatched” by a thief he didn’t see when he was not holding it.
“I put my stuff down,” Grieco said Thursday. “I thought it would be secure for a few seconds or a minute.”
Grieco said he reported the theft via phone to command staff assigned to the park where it was stolen, and was then “en route to the police station to file an official report when I received a call that the bag and its contents were mostly accounted for.”
Miami Beach police spokesperson Christopher Bess declined to comment on whether Grieco contacted command staff, citing an ongoing internal affairs investigation related to the incident.
The bag was found less than an hour after Grieco noticed it was missing, he said.
Campaign opponents take notice
Grieco asked police not to investigate the alleged theft, later telling reporters he didn’t want to burden the department with additional work after the bag was found. He said some cash, but nothing else, was missing.
The incident has become a campaign issue in the four-man race to succeed Dan Gelber, who is term-limited, as Miami Beach’s next mayor in a November election.
Bill Roedy, a former MTV executive running as a political outsider, has called on Grieco to drop out of the race and suggested the former city commissioner and state representative may have simply forgotten the bag, rather than it being stolen.
“You can’t claim to protect the public if you can’t protect your loaded gun,” Roedy said in a statement.
Another candidate, former city commissioner Michael Gongora, called the incident “deeply unsettling” and asked “how [Grieco’s] loaded gun ended up in a bag in a park where children play.”
Details of the incident were first reported earlier this week by the “Because Miami” account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
#BREAKING: Miami Beach mayoral candidate Michael Grieco — once arrested in illegal campaign finance scheme — left bag with ID, cash and Glock 43 handgun loaded with "six 9mm rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber" at South Pointe dog park on a Sunday morning #BecauseMiami pic.twitter.com/1mUk4Govp9
— Because Miami (@BecauseMiami) September 18, 2023
On Thursday, Grieco initially told the Herald Editorial Board that he was “holding off” on explaining the incident so that he does not “disrupt” the internal affairs investigation.
Police are looking into how Grieco’s involvement in the matter became public. His identity was not included in the incident report, but Grieco says it appears police leaked the information in violation of department policy and state statutes related to crime victims and former law enforcement officers, including prosecutors.
Grieco frustrated over politicizing the incident
During Thursday’s interview with the Editorial Board, Grieco said he was told that “somebody at this table was provided information,” a reference to one of his opponents.
Gongora, who has sparred with Grieco along the campaign trail, told the Herald he had “heard rumblings” about the incident from people outside the police department before it became public, but said he didn’t leak the story.
In a statement, Grieco said it was “frustrating” that “individuals would politicize this in a way that puts my family in harm’s way.”
“It’s outrageous and wrong and warrants a swift investigation,” he said.
As a city commissioner, Grieco once said he carried a gun in an ankle holster at City Hall.
His first run for Miami Beach mayor in 2017 was derailed after he resigned from the commission and pleaded no contest to a criminal charge of accepting an illegal donation from a foreign national to a secretive political committee. He had initially denied any involvement with the committee.
The saga is still rippling today. Last September, a judge tasked with investigating the scandal as part of a Florida Bar case recommended a 90-day suspension of Grieco’s law license. The Florida Supreme Court has yet to make a final determination.
Grieco has bounced back politically, serving two terms as a Democratic state representative from 2018 to 2022. He is now seen as one of the leading candidates for mayor.
During his campaign, Grieco has criticized Florida’s new permitless carry law, saying in a recent video that he is “gravely concerned” about public safety and “the fact there are going to be more guns on the street putting first responders and everyone else in danger.”