Miami Police Union President on Tamir Rice: "Act Like a Thug and You'll Be Treated Like One"

Protests and debates have erupted across the nation this week in the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict the Cleveland police officers who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Most of that debate has centered on whether police had real reason to fear for their lives, as the grand jury believed. Few have suggested that Rice — a preteen playing with a toy gun in a park — deserved to be killed.

But that's exactly what Lt. Javier Ortiz, president of Miami's police union, argues on Twitter during a debate with Billy Corben over the case. Ortiz writes that the officers were fully justified to shoot the kid. "Act like a thug and you'll be treated like one," he writes.

New Times reached out to Ortiz to see if he wanted to clarify that sentiment. Even the prosecutor in the case called it a "perfect storm of human error [and] mistakes." Plus, the officer who shot Rice had a "dismal" record of weapons training, according to his own former chief. (And that's not even to mention the racially charged use of "thug," which has become internet code in many sectors for the n-bomb.)

But Ortiz sticks by his argument.

"Mr. Rice wasn't your neighborhood kid running around with a water gun. He was brandishing and pointing a pellet gun in which the orange tip was removed," Ortiz tells New Times. "As tragic as the situation is, I support those in law enforcement that had to make a split-second decision in protecting themselves and the community."

Twitter was quick to jump on Ortiz: 

Ortiz is no stranger to stoking the flames of outrage after police violence. He's previously lashed out at Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa for supporting charges against the NYPD officers who killed Eric Garner, and Ortiz promoted pages to support Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

When a woman filmed a Miami cop kicking a handcuffed suspect last year, Ortiz responded by blasting the witness and spreading photos from her Facebook page. He also perpetuated rumors that a female assistant chief of police was Muslim and ignored the national anthem. Ortiz was also sued by a man who was tasered during Ultra Music Festival

In the Tamir Rice case, Ortiz has used the verdict to attack the Black Lives Matter movement, pointing toward the shooting death of a 7-year-old in a drive-by in South Miami-Dade over the weekend.

"I am sick and tired of the outrage for what is such a justified shooting, yet no outrage for the killing of 7-year-old Amiere Castro, who was killed in a drive-by shooting while playing inside a Richmond Heights house," says Ortiz, who was elected to his post as union president by fellow Miami officers. "Unless you are shot by police, it's not newsworthy or a worthwhile cause by the Blacklivesmatter group."

Of course, that argument misses the point entirely. There's plenty of outrage about Castro's death. Just read New Times' story and the comments about it from Monday. But Castro was killed by a criminal who has since been arrested. He wasn't killed by police officers sworn to protect and serve — yet who face no legal consequences for their mistakes, like killing Tamir Rice.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink