Miami cops challenge trooper's arrest of officer

6:56 AM, Nov 3, 2011   |    comments
Trooper Donna Watts arrests Miami Officer Fausto Lopez
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MIAMI (CBS4) - Some Miami police officers are furious that a Florida state trooper took a Miami cop down at gunpoint and put him in handcuffs after a high speed chase through Broward County.

Trooper Donna Watts arrested Miami Officer Fausto Lopez early on the morning of October 11th.  Her dashboard camera recorded the Miami officer, in a marked police car, blowing past her and other traffic on the Florida Turnpike like it was standing still.  Watts radioed that Lopez was going "well over 120? miles per hour, and was weaving "in and out of traffic."

Original Story: Speeding cop pulled over

When the trooper got the cop stopped, she approached his car with her gun drawn, ordered him out, and handcuffed him behind his back.  Lopez said he was rushing to get to an off-duty job in Hollywood, according to the arrest report.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing Miami officers, slammed the state trooper's behavior on Wednesday.

She was "completely unprofessional and very reckless," said Sgt. Javier Ortiz, the FOP vice-president.

"I pulled someone over last week doing 111 (mph) in a 60," Ortiz said.  "I didn't put a gun to their face.  Their is no reason for her to pull a firearm and put it in the face of another police officer."

Trooper Watts told her superiors she didn't know who she was dealing with in the pursuit that lasted seven minutes and went twelve miles.  She thought the police car might have been stolen or carjacked, given that it kept going despite her blue lights and siren being on.

"If she thought the car was stolen, she should have waited for back-up help," Ortiz said.  "You don't conduct a felony stop by yourself."

In the audio from the trooper's dashboard camera she can be heard lecturing the police officer for endangering the public, and described his behavior as common to Miami officers in particular.

"You don't respect these people out here," the trooper told Lopez.  "This is not a first-time occurrence with ya'll (Miami police).  Ya'll come that way all the time.  It's not excusable."

Ortiz, the Miami union rep, said he believes Trooper Watts has a dislike for Miami police and was "on the hunt" for a Miami officer.

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) issued a statement supporting its trooper's actions.

The Miami police union is entitled to its opinion, but our members protect the public regardless of who the violator is," said FHP Captain Mark Brown from his office in Tallahassee.  "She (Trooper Watts) took an oath to uphold the law and that is what she did."

Lopez's attorney, being paid by the police union, said on Wednessday that the officer was not guilty.

"This is a matter that's been blown out of proportion," attorney William Matthewman told CBS4 News.

Matthewman said Lopez is a "fine police officer with three children, who has been on the streets for six years protecting the community."

"Just like any other citizen, he is entitled to a presumption of innocence." Matthewman said.  "If you look at the video fairly, it does not show reckless driving."

Matthewman said Lopez was weaving across lanes, trying to get out of the trooper's way, because he thought she was on her way to an emergency call.

The lawyer said "there is no way" the officer was going 120 miles per hour as the trooper claimed.

Interim Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa told CBS4's Gary Nelson on Monday that Officer Lopez did a "dumb" and "knuckle-headed thing," and will face discipline of some sort when the criminal case against him is resolved.

Lopez remains on regular duty.

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