2 Ex-Florida Police Officers Accused of Kidnapping and Beating Homeless Man

Rafael Otano and Lorenzo Orfila, who have since been fired, face charges of armed kidnapping and battery

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A judge again denied bond Friday for one of the Hialeah Police Department officers accused of kidnapping a homeless man, driving him to an isolated location, and beating him while he was handcuffed.

Friends and family of Rafael Otano were joined by attorneys in the courtroom for the 27-year-old, hoping he would be able to bond out. This is the second time Otano was denied bond.

"Forcing him to remain in jail with no bail, when so many thousands of career criminals are released on bail, to house arrest, every single day, it's really, really a sad day for the court system," said Michael Pizzi, Otano's attorney.

The officers, Otano and 22-year-old Lorenzo Orfila, turned themselves in to authorities and were booked into the Miami-Dade jail around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, records showed.

Attorneys for Orfila are expected to ask for his release early next month.

The officers are charged with armed kidnapping and battery, and Orfila is also charged with official misconduct, records showed.

A civilian, 45-year-old Ali Amin Saleh, was also arrested in connection with the case for allegedly tampering with the victim, Fernandez Rundle said.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced the charges during a Thursday afternoon news conference, where she was joined by Hialeah Police Chief George Fuente.

"None of us here today will ever accept the actions that we have outlined here today. We will not allow rogue police officers to abuse their powers and to betray the public that they serve," Fernandez Rundle said.

Fernandez Rundle said the charges stem from an incident on Dec. 17 when the officers responded to a disturbance call at a shopping plaza on W. 60th Street.

The officers encountered Jose Ortega-Gutierrez, who is well known to police as a homeless man who frequents the area, Fernandez Rundle said.

Ortega-Gutierrez was placed in handcuffs and put in the back of a Hialeah Police car, despite surveillance footage from the scene not showing a reason for him to be taken into custody, Fernandez Rundle said.

Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office
Surveillance video released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office shows Hialeah Police officers Rafael Otano and Lorenzo Orfila taking Jose Oretga-Gutierrez into custody.

Instead of being taken to jail as is the normal procedure, the officers took Ortega-Gutierrez to an isolated location where he was beaten and thrown to the ground while still handcuffed, Fernandez Rundle said.

Ortega-Gutierrez said he lost consciousness and woke up unhandcuffed, alone, and bleeding from his head. He started walking and happened to come across an off-duty Hialeah Police officer who was walking his dog and called 911 for him.

He told police what had happened to him and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

One of the officers who responded to the scene was contacted by Orfila who inquired about Ortega-Gutierrez's condition and asked the officer to classify the 911 call as "no report," Fernandez Rundle said.

Orfila also told the officer that they had dropped Ortega-Gutierrez off and "roughed him up," Fernandez Rundle said.

Investigators discovered that GPS on their police vehicles showed Otano and Orfila were outside their assigned sector that day, Fernandez Rundle said. Neither had his body worn camera turned on during the encounter, Fernandez Rundle added.

Days after the incident, Ortega-Gutierrez said he was approached by Saleh, who he said identified himself as a private investigator and offered him $1,200 in cash to sign an affidavit that he had been arrested for drinking and hadn't been beaten by the officers, Fernandez Rundle said.

Ortega-Gutierrez said he doesn't know how to read and didn't know what was in the affidavit but signed it and took the money because he's homeless, Fernandez Rundle said.

Orfila and Otano were being held without bond Thursday, jail records showed.

Fernandez Rundle said the armed kidnapping charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted.

Pizzi said his client didn't do what he's accused of and called his arrest a "horrible miscarriage of justice."

"Charging a police officer with armed kidnapping when they were armed because they were in uniform on patrol in their own sector, risking their life to protect the public, that cannot possibly be armed kidnapping," Pizzi said.

Orfila was a 3-year veteran of the department, and Otano has been there for six years. Fuente said both officers had been fired by the mayor Thursday morning.

"It's a sad and disappointing day when any officer betrays the badge, and it's extremely disappointing to me it being an officer that wore the Hialeah badge," Fuente said. "We will not accept anything less than an unblemished integrity from those that entrust us to serve and protect."

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