Exactly one year ago today, Ruben Sebastian was driving across the Rickenbacker Causeway with a trunk full of groceries in his Chevy HHR station wagon. Sebastian, who at that time was an armed security guard for Miami-Dade County, had been earning some extra cash by delivering groceries and was in a rush to drop them off that day before his shift began at a Metrorail station.
Suddenly, lights flashed behind him, and Sebastian pulled over, annoyed he’d been caught speeding. But he expected that after the officer wrote him a ticket, that’s all it would be — an inconvenience on a busy weekday.
Instead, he says, he was harassed by the cop and then later illegally detained by Miami's most controversial cop — police union chief Javier Ortiz. Sebastian has now sued Ortiz over the ordeal.
"They think they’re above their constitutional oath," Sebastian says. "He was going to teach me a lesson as to how City of Miami Police don’t need search warrants. That’s exactly what [Ortiz] said."
Ortiz, though, denies ever saying such a thing.
"What? No. I would never say that," he tells New Times upon hearing Sebastian's remark.
Ortiz got involved in the stop after the cop who pulled over Sebstian, Officer Jay Grossman, asked Sebastian if he could search the vehicle and Sebastian refused. "I said, 'I’m going to be late to my post. You have no probable cause,'" Sebastian tells New Times.
Grossman then called for his supervisor, Lt. Javier Ortiz, who has made national headlines as the face of the police union. The two cops subsequently cuffed him and searched the car against his will, asking Sebastian if he was a "YouTube lawyer" or a "constitutionalist," according to the complaint, which also names Officer Daniel Crocker as a defendant.
Sebastian eventually was arrested for resisting an officer and reckless display of a firearm after the officers found the gun he used for his security guard job in its holster in the driver’s door side pocket, the lawsuit says.
All of the charges were later dropped, and Sebastian’s lawyer, David Frankel, says Sebastian’s concealed-carry permit was hanging from the rear-view mirror the whole time. After his arrest, Sebastian says, he lost his county security guard job and was forced to move out of his apartment when he couldn't pay rent.
Before his arrest, Sebastian says, he had never heard of Ortiz, who made headlines earlier this year for suggesting a police boycott of the April Beyoncé concert at Marlins Park.
But Sebastian says he was stunned when he plugged Ortiz's name into Google and found a handful of other people who claimed to have been mistreated by the outspoken police union chief, from a fitness trainer who said he was beaten by police at Ultra to a woman who went viral for pulling over a speeding cop and was then doxxed by the police union president.
"That's when I decided, well, he did this to this lady and he did this to me, and this is going to be the end of it. I'm going to take this son of a bitch to court," Sebastian says. "I would love to see Javi's head on a plate. My main goal is to get rid of this scumbag and all the wrong he's been doing to society. Enough is enough."
In court, Ortiz's lawyer has argued that the lieutenant did nothing wrong and was led to believe by the initial officer that there was probable cause to arrest Sebastian and thus to search his car.
"It's unfortunate that he did not follow the orders of the law and was armed with a gun," Ortiz says of Sebastian. "It's unfortunate that he made that poor decision, and I wish him the best."