A couple of hours after the Miami Heat won its second-straight NBA championship title in 2013, François Alexandre was partying in the streets alongside hundreds of other blissed-out fans. Late into the night, as the crowd thinned to about 20 people, Alexandre says, a group of City of Miami bicycle cops turned their bikes sideways, created a wall, and began to march forward to push people away from downtown.
That's when, Alexandre says, his perfect night of Heat celebration turned into a bloody beatdown. After trying to help a woman who fell in front of him, Alexandre claims, he was clotheslined and then walloped by nine cops, who broke the orbital bone in his eye.
Alexandre is now suing the city, Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, and nine Miami cops — including outspoken police union chief Lt. Javier Ortiz.
Ortiz, an active cop who heads Lodge 20 of the Fraternal Order of Police, made national headlines earlier this year by organizing a boycott of Beyoncé performances over her black-power-referencing Super Bowl performance in 2016. That boycott failed.
Twitter storms regularly erupt around Ortiz, who is quick to defend cops caught in controversial situations: After the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge this year, Ortiz said on Facebook that the shooting was "more than justified." When unarmed behavioral technician Charles Kinsey was shot in North Miami in July, Ortiz dismissed the shooting as media "sensationalism." And when Cleveland Police killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, Ortiz later offered this: "Act like a thug, and you'll be treated like one."
Ortiz has also faced legal controversies. Earlier this year, he was sued by a man who claims Ortiz wrongfully arrested him on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Ortiz was also sued after allegedly tasering a man at Ultra Music Festival in 2011. After the festival settled that case for $400,000, Ortiz was banned from working at Ultra. But he instead fought back and filed a grievance demanding he not only be allowed to work the event but also be paid for the Ultra festivals he was banned from working.
In the latest lawsuit, Ortiz's lawyer, Oscar Marrero, said Ortiz himself had not yet been served with Alexandre's suit and thus could not comment on the specifics.
"Lieutenant Ortiz is an excellent officer," Marrero said. "The filing of a lawsuit does not mean anyone did anything wrong, and he will exercise his constitutionally protected right to aggressively defend the case." Through his lawyer, Ortiz denied any wrongdoing.
The City of Miami, meanwhile, does not comment on active litigation as a matter of policy.
According to the suit, the night of June 21, 2013 — hours after the Heat's clinching win — Alexandre began shouting at the cops as they marched their bicycle wall at him that he, "as a taxpayer, had rights."
"Suddenly and without provocation, an officer ran at [Alexandre] and violently tackled him by 'clotheslining' him with an arm around his throat," the suit alleges. It does not name which officer clotheslined Alexandre. "[Alexandre], taken completely unawares, was violently thrown down and dragged by his neck into an alcove formed by a doorway and entrance into his apartment building. This alcove effectively trapped [Alexandre], so that he was easy to pin down and restrain, and kept him, and the beating he sustained, shielded from view."
The suit then says five cops jumped on Alexandre and began beating him while he lay motionless. Another cop allegedly ran up wielding a baton, he claims, but the five other cops were crowded around Alexandre too tightly, forcing that cop to leave.
After Alexandre was handcuffed and transported to a police station, the suit says, an officer tasked with taking him to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center was so upset by Alexandre's medical condition that the cop drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital instead. There, Alexandre says, he was taken to the hospital's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for the fractured orbital bone in his left eye socket.
Alexandre's lawyer, Leonard Fenn, says Ortiz signed one of the police reports during Alexandre's arrest. On Facebook, New Times found photographs Ortiz posted on his Facebook page showing he was patrolling the championship celebrations on a bike that night:
Alexandre is suing the City of Miami, Llanes, and nine cops for unlawful arrest, excessive force, violations of his rights to peacefully assemble, and battery, among other charges.
Fenn tells New Times that, in addition to being compensated for his damages, Alexandre — who now volunteers as a community activist and holds a Florida International University degree — would like to see some sort of policy change made throughout the department.
Alexandre says he was taunted while the cops beat him. Fenn says, "There was no need to taunt a person you just beat up. The fact that these guys made these taunting remarks just shows this was personal. The cops were ticked off that he wasn’t cowed and he wasn’t afraid of them. That's the kind of attitude we don’t need."
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