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Man was shot by police after officer mistook his gun for a Taser, police in Florida say

<i>WSVN</i><br/>Attorney Ben Crump
Attorney Ben Crump

By Gregory Lemos and Amy Simonson, CNN

A police officer in Florida shot a man after mistaking his gun for a Taser, an initial review of the case suggests, police said in a statement.

The shooting last year is gaining growing attention after the man’s attorney announced a public records lawsuit against the Hollywood Police Department.

On July 3, 2021, police allegedly shot Michael Ortiz in the back while he was on the ground naked and in handcuffs, according to the complaint. Ortiz is now paralyzed and requires round-the-clock care, the complaint alleges. The officer mistakenly fired a gun instead of a Taser, the Hollywood Police Department said in a statement. “An initial review suggests the officer intended to deploy his taser, but instead discharged his firearm,” the statement said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference that Ortiz “was having a mental health crisis” on the day of the shooting after losing his dog. “He was calling 911 for help,” Crump said of the events leading up to the shooting.

Ortiz then took a shower and was drying off when he discovered three police officers, three fire department officials, and a police intern at his residence, Crump said. Ortiz told reporters he does not remember exactly what happened.

Ortiz appeared in a wheelchair at Monday’s news conference with his mother, several relatives, Crump and other attorneys. Ortiz’s family has been unable to get satisfactory answers from the police department about what happened that day and why, his mother told reporters.

The lawsuit aims to force the police department to release surveillance footage, 911 calls, police reports, body camera footage, witness statements, police radio dispatches and excessive force complaints, Crump said.

The Florida Division of Law Enforcement confirmed to CNN on Monday that it is conducting an investigation into the incident at the request of Hollywood police, and will turn over the results to the Florida State Attorney’s Office.

“The Hollywood Police Department is fully cooperating with FDLE and providing additional information as the investigation continues. Once FDLE completes its investigation, the findings will be submitted to the State Attorney’s Office for review,” the police statement said.

The police department’s internal affairs unit will also conduct an independent administrative investigation, the statement said.

FDLE investigations after use-of-force incidents are standard practice, a spokesperson told CNN. Asked if the agency has jurisdiction to instruct a local law enforcement agency to withhold records or video footage of an incident during an investigation, the spokesperson said “no.”

The findings from this investigation should be handed over to the States Attorney’s Office “soon.” Charges, if any are brought, will be announced sometime after that, the FDLE said.

The shooting draws parallels to the recent trial of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, who drew a gun instead of a Taser and fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April 2021.

Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Her sentencing is slated for next week.

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