Two Florida police officers charged for allegedly beating homeless man
Two police officers are among the three people charged in connection with the beating of a homeless man in Florida last year. Both officers were removed from active duty before being fired from the department, police chief George Fuente said.
According to an affidavit, Hialeah Police Department officers Lorenzo Orfila and Rafael Otano were working an afternoon patrol shift together on Dec. 17, 2022, when they were dispatched to Los Tres Conejitos Bakery in a Hialeah shopping plaza. The two officers “made contact” with Jose Ortega Gutierrez, who was then handcuffed and put in the backseat of Orfila’s police vehicle.
The affidavit notes that Orfilo and Otano did not arrest Gutierrez for “any violation of Florida State Statute and/or Miami-Dade County Ordinance.” The officers’ body cameras were not activated during the encounter.
Gutierrez was “transported … against (his) will” to “an isolated and dark area,” according to the affidavit. Gutierrez said that he was taken out of the vehicle, still handcuffed, and “punched and pushed onto the floor” by Orfila and Otano.
GPS data from the officers’ vehicles confirmed that they took Guttierez to the location he claimed he had been assaulted, according to the affidavit. The route the GPS data showed them taking was also corroborated using surveillance video, the affidavit states. Neither officer logged the trip or the transportation of Guitierrez in their daily reports, which they would have been required to do, according to the affidavit.
Photos of Gutierrez taken after the incident showed lacerations and bruises on his body, including a black eye. According to the affidavit, Gutierrez said he fell unconscious and when he awoke, he was alone and uncuffed. He soon made contact with another person, who called the police, according to the affidavit.
When the call for help went out over police radio, Orfila reportedly called responding officer Yenny Ferrer, according to the affidavit, and asked him to “‘no-report’ the call.” According to the affidavit, Orfila told Ferrer that “‘they’ had dropped off the victim … and had ‘roughed’ him up.” Ferrer did report the incident. Gutierrez told Ferrer that he had been injured by officers, and was interviewed by the Hialeah Police Department’s Professional Compliance Bureau after being treated for his injuries.
The Hialeah Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit also investigated the allegations.
Orfila was charged with armed kidnapping, official misconduct by a public servant and battery. Otano was charged with armed kidnapping and battery, Fuente and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Thursday.
“It’s a sad and disappointing day when any officer betrays the badge,” Fuente said at a press conference.
Both officers were arrested Thursday morning and booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, according to online jail records. Otano is being held without bond, and Orfila is being held on a bond of $20,000, according to the records.
A third person, identified in court documents as Ali Saleh, was charged with witness tampering. Saleh, who is homeless, allegedly approached Gutierrez as a “private investigator,” according to an affidavit. Over multiple meetings, Saleh paid Gutierrez $1,200 and “coaxed” him into signing a pre-notarized affidavit that contradicted his earlier sworn statements to investigators and instead said that he had been arrested for drinking and had not been battered by Orfila and Otano. Investigators concluded the second affidavit was inaccurate.
Saleh was arrested Wednesday and is also being held without bond at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, according to jail records.