Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced Wednesday at a Fort Lauderdale press conference he is filing a lawsuit against the City of Hollywood and police officers involved in the 2021 shooting of Michael Ortiz.
In July 2021, Ortiz called 911 saying he had taken drugs and was suffering a mental health emergency brought on by losing his dog, according to reports. When Hollywood police arrived, they restrained him, placed him on the ground, tased him, and shot him in the back while he was naked and unarmed.
The police shooting left Ortiz wheelchair-bound and paralyzed from the waist down. A spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Crump had sued the Hollywood Police Department last year for access to surveillance video of the shooting. He said the contents of the body cam footage, which has not yet been released to the general public, is the most clear evidence that the use of force was unnecessary and police acted against use-of-force protocol. “Michael Ortiz needed a helping hand, but what he got was a bullet to the back,” Crump said.
Attorney Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC and attorney Sue-Ann Robinson of Robinson Caddy Law are co-counsel in the case. Shkolnik said the video shows a police officer stepping off an elevator, pulling his gun out and pressing it into Ortiz’s back while he laid on the ground naked with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
He said Ortiz’s medical treatment has already reached over $3 million. “The city is going to be the one to pay that and they're not getting off the hook with just paying his medical bills,” he said.
Robinson said police contend that Ortiz was shot after an officer mistook his handgun for his taser, but the yellow taser was a different color than his gun and was holstered on a different side of his body. She claimed Hollywood police officers also had recently undergone training before Ortiz’s shooting about taser use after the Daunte Wright shooting.
In a brief statement, Ortiz said his life has been destroyed by the shooting. “Not only my life, my mom's and my life got destroyed. My mom is taking care of her son who is more than 40 years old, and she's treating me like I'm six months old, changing diapers,” he said.
Crump closed by pleading with the judge preventing release of the body cam footage to the public due to a pending investigation. “We think it's important that everybody in Hollywood and South Florida and America see what the officer did," he said.