TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two former South Florida police officers turned themselves in Thursday to face felony charges over the beating of a homeless man who had been drinking outside a shopping center last month, officials said.
According to NBC affiliate WTVJ, 27-year-old Rafael Otano and 22-year-old Lorenzo Orfila, were booked into jail Thursday on charges of kidnapping and battery. Orfila was also charged with official misconduct, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said during a news conference.
According to the state attorney, the charges stem from an incident on Dec. 17 when the officers encountered a homeless man who is known to frequent the area. The officers handcuffed the man, put him in a patrol car, and drove him to a remote location several miles away.
“There he was taken out of the marked car and while handcuffed, he was allegedly beaten and thrown to the ground by the officers,” Fernandez Rundle said, adding that investigators were not able to find “any violations that would have prompted or justified taking him into custody.”
Authorities noted the man lost consciousness and woke up alone and bleeding from his head.
Shortly after leaving the area, the man came across an off-duty Hialeah Police officer who was walking his dog. The off-duty officer called 911.
Some 12 days into the investigation, detectives learned a civilian had approached the victim and offered him $1,200 to recant his original statement. The victim later told detectives 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 and he’s unemployed.”
That civilian was charged with witness tampering.
“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,” Hialeah Police chief George Fuente said. “We will not accept anything less than an unblemished integrity from those that entrust us to serve and protect.”
Orfila was a 3-year veteran of the department, and Otano has been there for six years. Fuente said both officers were fired by the mayor on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.