Florida officers charged with battery after allegedly beating homeless man
Two Florida police officers are facing armed kidnapping and battery charges for allegedly assaulting a homeless man after handcuffing him without reason, and taking him to an “isolated” location where they beat him unconscious.
The news has emerged as America is grappling with a reckoning over abusive policing in the US following the beating to death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Video of the beating of the 29-year-old Black motorist shocked the US and the world when it was released on Friday. Five officers have been charged with his murder.
Now Florida prosecutors say that on 17 December, officers Rafael Otano and Lorenzo Orfila of Hialeah city in Miami-Dade county handcuffed 50-year-old Jose Ortega Gutierrez, a homeless man who was known in the area. Surveillance cameras in the area around did not show any behavior by Gutierrez that would warrant an arrest.
The officers then drove him to a “dark” and “isolated” spot six miles away, blasting their emergency lights on the way. They allegedly threw Gutierrez on the ground and beat him. He later woke up without cuffs, bleeding from his head.
He was eventually able to find help through an off-duty police officer who was walking his dog and called 911 for him.
Orfila reportedly called one of the responding officers to ask about Gutierrez’s condition and asked him to write up the 911 call as “no report”.
The incident soon led to an internal investigation.
A few days later, Ali Amin Saleh, 45, allegedly approached Gutierrez and offered him $1,200, persuading him into signing an affidavit claiming the officers did not assault him.
Gutierrez, who does not know how to read and was not informed what was in the statement, said he signed the paper because he needed the money.
Saleh was charged with tampering with the victim. Orfila, who was the one to handcuff Gutierrez, was also charged with official misconduct.
The charges were announced on Thursday by Miami-Dade state attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle who condemned their actions, and said: “We will not allow rogue police officers to abuse their powers and to betray the public that they serve.”
The officers were fired on Thursday, and taken into the Miami-Dade jail. They have been denied bail by a judge.