MIAMI (CBS4) – Like many South Floridians, Jupiter resident Jonathan Hart has seen the controversial dash cam video, showing Florida Highway Patrol trooper Donna Watts chasing Miami Police officer Fausto Lopez at high speeds on the Turnpike in Hollywood in October.
She put Lopez in cuffs, before ultimately letting him go with a ticket for reckless driving.
But unlike most, Hart had a previous run-in on the road with Officer Lopez and didn’t realize it was the same officer from the inter-agency tangle.
“I wasn’t aware of it until you told me. It’s ironic and really crazy,” Hart told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
Hart says he encountered Lopez in March of 2009, during evening rush hour on the same stretch of the Turnpike where Trooper Watts pulled him over. While Hart admits he’s not a perfect driver, he was shocked by Lopez’s driving.
“He had to be doing 95, 100 miles an hour,” said Hart. ”Cuts in front of other people, accelerates, brakes hard, cuts over to the left, cuts over to the right.”
“Do you feel he could’ve caused an accident?” asked Zea.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” responded Hart without hesitation.
Hart was so suspect by that officer’s driving he did something very few drivers ever do; He picked up the phone and called the police department.
“It was a selfish, self-centered act to do for him to just drive like this with reckless disregard for our safety and for the law that he’s supposed to be upholding,” said Hart.
Miami Police Department’s Internal Affairs section opened an investigation and put the complaint in Lopez’s file. But investigators had to close the case because Hart never came in to give a statement.
“Maybe I should’ve, but logistically and timewise if they would’ve wanted to come up here to investigate it and come to my house and set a time, yeah, but I don’t think I should have had to come down (to Miami).”
He says he was also nervous about potential retaliation. Trooper Watts knows something about that. She’s facing heavy criticism from officers from other departments. But Hart applauds her action.
“She did the right thing. (Lopez) was putting people’s lives in danger and obviously has been for a long time,” said Hart.
Zea reached out to the Miami Police Department for comment on the driving complaint. A spokesperson says they are not commenting on Lopez’s personnel file until after the pending reckless driving court case is over.