A man who was paralyzed in 2021 when a Florida police officer shot him in the back with his service weapon instead of a stun gun has filed a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force and negligence.
Michael Ortiz, 43, was left paralyzed from the waist down after calling 911 while experiencing a mental health crisis on July 3, 2021, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for south florida.
Fire personnel arrived to find Ortiz naked after he had showered to try and calm down, the lawsuit says.
Ortiz “acted with erratic behavior and spoke incoherent and garbled words in Spanish,” the lawsuit says.
Three Hollywood police officers also responded. They were in physical control of Ortiz, the lawsuit says. One used a stun gun at least twice, and a second officer shot Ortiz, who was handcuffed, in the back, he says.
Ortiz was not committing a crime when he was shot with a stun gun and then with a service weapon, the lawsuit says.
Hollywood police said in February 2022 that a review had determined that the officer who opened fire intended to use his stun gun, but fired instead.
“The department recognizes that this is an unfortunate incident and is doing everything possible to ensure that it does not happen again,” police said in a statement at the time.
Ortiz’s lawsuit says that because he was naked and unarmed, he reasonably posed no threat.
«Michael Ortiz needed a helping hand, but what he got was a bullet in the back,» attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference Wednesday. according to NBC Miami.
The lawsuit names the city of Hollywood, its police and fire departments, and officers Henry Andrews, Jhonny Jimenez and Diante Roots as defendants.
He accuses Andrews of shooting Ortiz in the back and says that Roots used a stun gun on him.
A Hollywood police spokesman declined to comment Thursday on the lawsuit or the incident. The spokesperson said Andrews is assigned to administrative work and Roots and Jimenez remain with the department.
A spokesman for the fire department also declined to comment Thursday.
None of the officers named as defendants could be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
The lawsuit also alleges poor training and a lack of intervention.
“City of Hollywood defendants failed to adequately train officers to identify individuals who may be affected by a mental health crisis and failed to take adequate steps to reduce potentially volatile encounters with individuals in the public,” the lawsuit states. .
The police department said in a statement after the shooting that Ortiz called 911 and reported chest pains, made suicidal comments and indicated that he had taken narcotics.
Authorities said Ortiz emerged from a sixth-floor apartment «naked, combative with paramedics and visibly agitated.» Police said Ortiz told them that he planned to jump from a balcony.
Ortiz, who is in a wheelchair, said Wednesday that his mother is his caregiver and that he feels like an infant because of his physical condition, according to NBC Miami.
“My mom is taking care of her son who is over 40 years old and is treating me as if I were 6 months old, changing my diapers,” she said.
Madelyn Urabe and Tim Stelloh contributed.