Two former Hialeah City police officers and one civilian are facing charges in connection to the alleged kidnapping and beating of a homeless man, as well as witness tampering on part of the civilian in an effort to cover up the officers’ actions, officials announced Thursday.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, said 22-year-old former officer Lorenzo Orfila, a three-year member of the department, was charged with one count of armed kidnapping, a felony, one count of official misconduct solicitation and one count of battery.
The second former officer, 27-year-old Rafael Otano, a five-year member of the department, was charged with one count of felony kidnapping and one of count battery, Rundle said during a news conference.
Separately, a civilian identified as 45-year-old Ali Amin Saleh was charged with one count of witness tampering, the prosecutor said.
The officers were dispatched to a call for service in a shopping center on December 17, Rundle said.
Both officers responded and made contact with the 50-year-old victim, who, according to the prosecutor, “is well known to the officers who patrol this part of Hialeah as a homeless individual who consistently roams the shopping center area.”
The officers allegedly detained the man, placed him in handcuffs and put him in the back of their police car, she added.
“Based on a review of surveillance video from numerous locations in the area (…) Hialeah police detectives were unable to identify any violation of Florida State statutes or Miami-Dade County ordinances that would have prompted or justified” taking the man into custody, Rundle said.
After the man was placed in the police car, he was not taken to the local corrections facility, as would be the normal process for an arrest. Instead, he was allegedly taken to “an isolated and dark location against his will,” Rundle said.
According to the prosecutor, the man was taken out of the car at that location, and while handcuffed was allegedly beaten and thrown to the ground by the officers. The victim said “he lost consciousness during the incident and ultimately he woke up alone un-handcuffed and bleeding from the head in the same isolated area,” the prosecutor said.
Rundle said while the man was walking back after “allegedly being beaten and abandoned,” he was spotted by an off-duty Hialeah officer who was walking his dog and who called 911.
The victim gave a sworn video recorded statement to police before being taken for medical treatment for his injuries, the prosecutor added.
Investigators found out based on GPS recordings on the police cars that both officers were allegedly outside of their assigned areas that day, Rundle said.
During their probe into the incident, detectives also learned that a private investigator, later identified as Saleh, had allegedly approached the victim and offered him $1,200 to sign an affidavit recanting his original statement about the incident with the officers.
The victim later “advised the detectives that the reason he took the money that Saleh provided to him is because he’s homeless and he’s unemployed,” Rundle said.
All three men were in Miami-Dade County jail custody Friday morning, jail records show. It is unclear if any of them have obtained legal representation at this time.
The officers were terminated by the Hialeah mayor on Thursday morning, Hialeah Police Chief George Fuente said.
“Immediately upon learning this situation, we initiated an investigation by our Professional Compliance Bureau, along with our Major Crimes Unit, and in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office had the investigation started,” Fuente said. “Both officers were removed from the uniformed patrol division and were reassigned until they were relieved of duty.”
“Let these arrests send a clear message to everyone who wears a badge, that swears to uphold the oath, that we will not accept anything less than an unblemished integrity from those that entrust us to serve and protect,” the chief added. “I want to make it clear that the actions of these two former officers do not reflect the devotion and commitment of the