Florida officer thought handgun was stun gun in shooting of naked man, police say

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump announced lawsuit to force release of video

Michael Ortiz was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by a police officer. (WPLG)

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – An officer thought he was deploying his stun gun when he shot and seriously wounded a naked man last summer, Hollywood police said.

The police statement was released late Tuesday after civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump announced a lawsuit to force the release of surveillance video of the July 3 shooting that paralyzed Michael Ortiz.

The Ortiz lawsuit comes as Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter awaits sentencing for manslaughter after killing Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last year. She too said she thought she was firing her stun gun, not her handgun.

The officer who shot Ortiz was put on desk duty pending a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. “While the investigation is still active and ongoing, an initial review suggests the officer intended to deploy his taser, but instead discharged his firearm,” the statement said.

Police said Ortiz, 42, had called 911 saying he had taken drugs and was suffering from chest pains. Paramedics responded first. Ortiz, naked and agitated, emerged from a sixth floor apartment and threatened to jump from a balcony.

Officers were sent to the scene to assist Hollywood Fire Rescue after Ortiz refused to open the door and began making “delusional and suicidal statements," the police statement said.

One officer deployed a Taser and put Ortiz in restraints, but he used his legs to resist as they tried to move him into an elevator to a waiting rescue vehicle, the statement said.

“As he continued to resist, an officer discharged his firearm, striking Mr. Ortiz once," the police statement said.

Crump shared a different version, saying Ortiz called 911 to report his dog missing, then took a shower and was wearing a towel when police showed up at his door. Crump also said that video taken from a nearby apartment building recorded some of what happened.

”You must release the video that shows us why you shot a naked man, face down and paralyzed him,” Crump told CBS-4.

The FDLE's findings will be submitted to the state attorney's office for review, and then the Hollywood Police internal affairs unit will investigate, the statement said.

“We empathize with Mr. Ortiz and his family and know they have many questions about that evening,” police said. “Our hope is that once the investigation is complete, we will be able to meet with them and provide any additional information they are seeking.”

The police statement confirmed that the department preserved all evidence and records of the case in response to a July 12 request by the law firm Morgan and Morgan on behalf of Ortiz's family. The law firm also indicated they mailed a public records request to the general police headquarters address, bypassing a records request on the agency's online web portal.

Hollywood police said there is no record of the letter being received by the records division, and the law firm told police they are no longer representing Ortiz. The police statement said the department received no other public records requests about the shooting until Monday, the day Crump announced the lawsuit.