MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami’s interim top cop is downplaying criminal charges brought against one of his officers who led a state trooper on a high speed chase captured on camera.
“He made one dumb mistake,” Chief Manuel Orosa replied when CBS4’s Gary Nelson inquired why Officer Fausto Lopez remains on regular duty, despite being charged with criminal reckless driving.
The charge carries fines and even possible jail time if the officer is convicted.
“We are investigating the matter and will take the appropriate action,” Orosa said on Monday.
On the morning of October 11th, a state trooper fell in behind Lopez as he hurtled southbound on the Florida Turnpike near Sunrise.
“He’s doing well over 120 (mph), and he’s not stopping,” Trooper D.J. Watts said over her police radio, the sound of her siren wailing in the background.
On her dashboard camera, the Miami officer could be seen weaving in and out of traffic, blowing past other vehicles almost as if they were standing still.
After seven long minutes, the trooper finally got the police car to pull over. She emerged from her squad car, pulling her pistol and aiming it at the driver’s side of the Miami police vehicle.
“Put your hands out that window right now!” the trooper shouted. “Put your hands out the window!”
FHP Sergeant Mark Wysocky told CBS4 News on Monday that the trooper behaved appropriately in pulling her weapon, not knowing whether she might be stopping a violent felon who could have carjacked a police officer’s vehicle.
“She didn’t know what she was dealing with,” Wysocky said. “She thought the vehicle might have been stolen.”
The FHP report of the incident quotes Officer Lopez as saying he was hurrying because he was a late for a moonlighting job – an off duty gig – in Hollywood.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was livid after seeing the video of the incident and the police officer’s behavior.
“This is a moral indictment of an officer, and maybe officers, that believe they can be above the law,” Regalado told CBS4 News. “You and I would be in very serious trouble if we endangered the public this way.”
The story, first reported Friday by CBS4’s Spanish language broadcast partner WLTV Channel 23, gained growing reaction Monday as Miami’s police chief swore in a class of 13 new recruits.
What kind of example does the Lopez case and the department’s reaction to it set for the new officers who joined the force Monday?
Chief Orosa replied only that he hopes the recruits “don’t make the same kind of mistake.”