Mayor Francis Suarez Praises Javier Ortiz, Once Banned From Ultra, for His Work at Ultra

Mayor Francis Suarez Praises Javier Ortiz, Once Banned From Ultra, for His Work at Ultra
Courtesy of Javier Ortiz
Courtesy of Javier Ortiz
After Ultra was forced in 2014 to pay $400,000 to settle a lawsuit from a festival-goer beaten up by former police union boss Javier Ortiz, the controversy-prone cop was banned from working future editions of the EDM festival. Well, what a difference a few years make: Ortiz, now a captain, served all weekend at Ultra 2019, and his performance there got a shout-out from the mayor.

During a commission meeting Thursday, Mayor Francis Suarez singled out the renegade officer — whose past exploits include calling 12-year-old police shooting victim Tamir Rice a "thug" and doxxing people who have the audacity to critique the police — for praise.

"I want to commend Captain Ortiz, who did a phenomenal job directing traffic, and really all of the men and women of our fire department and our police department," Suarez said. "They created a mobile command center — Key Biscayne was a big part of it — and there were federal, state, and local agencies that all came together to try to make the best out of a very complex situation. And I want to commend them for their work."

This is not the only time local leaders have appeared to embrace Ortiz. As local blogger Al Crespo pointed out last month, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez shared photographs on Twitter of himself looking on as Ortiz led roll call during Ultra. "Instead of being rewarded for his continued misbehavior," Crespo wrote, "Ortiz should be locked in an office in the basement of the police headquarters, and not commanding police officers at this, or any year's Ultra Music Festival."

Ortiz's long history with Ultra dates back to 2011, when a man named Jesse Campodonico and his girlfriend were stopped by a security guard because she was holding a glowstick. When Campodonico complained, he said, Ortiz and Sgt. Edward Lugo beat, choked, and then tasered him as he lay on the ground. The cops lied about their actions in official reports.

In 2014, after settling the resulting lawsuit, Ultra organizers asked the city to send different cops next time. Ortiz and Lugo filed a grievance complaining they were being unfairly disciplined. They demanded not only to be allowed to work at future Ultra events, but also to be given back pay for the festival work they'd missed.

After a nearly two-year court battle, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled against the officers, deciding they were not entitled to back pay. But Ortiz was allowed to resume work at the festival, where, during last year's event, he could be found smiling for photos with Suarez.
Meanwhile, controversy continues to surround Ortiz, who seems to always worm his way out of trouble. In March, he was blasted by a judge for using excessive force in a 2015 traffic stop. The mayor's praise came less than a month later.
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas