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Florida officer meant to use Taser but fired gun, paralyzing man who called for help, police say

Michael Ortiz was naked and restrained when a police officer is alleged to have shot him in the back on July 3, his lawyers said.
Michael Ortiz and his family at a news conference led by Attorney Ben Crump
Michael Ortiz and his family at a news conference Monday led by lawyer Benjamin Crump as he announces he is seeking records from the Hollywood Police Department about the shooting that paralyzed him.Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A review of a police shooting that paralyzed a man last year found that the officer who opened fire meant to use his Taser but shot his gun instead, authorities said Tuesday.

Michael Ortiz was naked and restrained when an officer from the Hollywood Police Department in Florida shot him in the back July 3, Ortiz's lawyers said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Ortiz, 42, called 911 reporting chest pains while making suicidal comments and saying he had taken narcotics, the police department said in a statement.

As he was waiting for police officers to arrive, Ortiz emerged from his sixth-floor apartment "naked, combative with the paramedics and visibly agitated," authorities said, adding that Ortiz told them he planned to jump from a balcony.

They struggled, and an officer used a Taser on Ortiz before placing him in restraints, police said. As officers tried to move him into an elevator so he could be taken to a hospital, Ortiz resisted and the officer opened fire, according to police.

"An initial review suggests the officer intended to deploy his Taser, but instead discharged his firearm," the police statement said.

The officer, who has not been identified, was placed on leave while state and local authorities investigate.

"The department recognizes this is an unfortunate incident and is doing what it can to make sure this doesn’t happen again," the police statement said. "We empathize with Mr. Ortiz and his family and know they have many questions about that evening. Our hope is that once the investigation is complete, we will be able to meet with them and provide any additional information they are seeking." 

Ortiz's lawyers blasted the agency, saying their client "needed help from the Hollywood Police Department, but what they provided instead was a bullet in the back."

Ortiz “was handcuffed, naked, on the ground, and posed no threat to the officer when he was shot in the back, resulting in his paralysis,” lawyers Benjamin Crump, Paul Napoli and Hunter Shkolnik said in a statement.

Ortiz requires a wheelchair and "round-the-clock care," the lawyers said.

The statement appeared to refer to a Minnesota case involving former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, who said she meant to fire her stun gun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright, 20, with a Glock pistol on April 11.

Potter was convicted in December of first-degree manslaughter and other charges. Crump has represented Wright's family.

“We’ve heard these claims before, and they continue to be an insult to the victims and to the communities these officers are sworn to serve,” the lawyers said in the statement about the Hollywood shooting.

They filed a public records lawsuit against the Florida department seeking security video, 911 calls, police reports and other documents, their statement said.

A police spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The statement said the department had not received a records request for case files until Monday.

The spokeswoman also did not respond to a request for an interview with the officer who shot Ortiz. The local police union did not immediately respond to a request for comment, either.