The head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police is retaliating against the woman who pulled over a Miami-Dade police officer for speeding last week in a video that went viral by posting her personal information online and encouraging his followers to call and harass her.
But Miami Police Lieutenant Javier Ortiz says he is only exercising his First Amendment rights by sharing publicly available information to his social media followers, which includes about 4,000 cops on Facebook.
However, Facebook has since deleted at least one of his posts, claiming it violated its community standards, after it was reported by Miami filmmaker Billy Corben.
Ortiz responded by reposting the information, putting his Facebook account at risk of being suspended, which would be torturous to the union leader who barely goes a day without posting. That reposting has since been removed.
Claudia Castillo, the woman who recorded the video in a story that has made international headlines after it was first posted on PINAC, says she is exploring her legal options.
“My phone has not stopped ringing,” Castillo said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Wednesday. “Some have been courageous to leave a message, leaving threats. None have been courageous to say anything to my face.”
The threats consist of unknown voices from unlisted numbers informing her that she now has a target on her back.
“They say, ‘be careful what you do. You better watch your back. Be careful how you proceed. You better drive very carefully.'”
She describes the retaliation as juvenile or as she described it in terms that few outside of Miami will understand, “una comemierderia,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “Cuban slang term describing the act of behaving uneducated and inept.”
“It’s pretty interesting their reaction is similar to that of a delinquent,” she said. “Instead of taking the high road, they have decided to bash me and trash me and overlook the actual issue that this Miami-Dade police officer was driving reckless.”
Her critics point to an NBC Miami article that says she has been pulled over and cited 14 times since 1998 for various traffic offenses with most of the cases being dismissed.
However, the Miami-Dade police officer whom she pulled over, Daniel Fonticiella, also has a history of bad driving, including seven car crashes since 2006, according to CBS Miami, who obtained his personnel file.
In October 2006, records show he sideswiped a vehicle on Miami Beach. A year later he crashed straight into a concrete poll while turning right. His police vehicle, a rented car, sustained $10,000 in damage. A few months after this accident he hit another poll trying to avoid a suspect. Fonticella had to take extra driving courses and since then has had three more accidents, though those were not his fault.
But CBS Miami also points out he was recently “recognized for not having accidents,” which does not mean a whole lot considering cops are frequently awarded for simply showing up to work.
Castillo said last Friday he sped past her at more than 80 mph before he drove up the onramp of the Palmetto Expressway. She said he reached speeds of 100 mph as she tried to keep up with him, her camera mounted on her dash.
She followed him for several miles, admitting that she reached speeds of 80 mph, until she finally got him to pull over. When he approached her car, inquiring whether she had an emergency, she told him she was upset at him for speeding.
He accepted the criticism without taking it personal, saying he disagrees with her, but that she is entitled to her opinion. He also apologized and promised to drive safer.
In essence, he came across professional, which surprised Castillo and most of us who are accustomed to seeing videos of cops flying off the handle at the faintest hint of criticism.
But on the other hand, Ortiz’s professionalism is questionable considering he is using his social media platform to encourage his followers to bully and harass Castillo, including posting a photo of her driving a boat while holding a beer can.
While it is illegal to drive a boat while drunk, it is not illegal to drive a boat while holding an open can of beer.
Ortiz said he has not actively fished for her information, but that it was just sent to him and all he did was share it. He also claims Fonticiella was not speeding.
And, of course, he mentioned the mythical “War on Cops.”
He stated the following in a Facebook message to PINAC:
The officer wasn’t speeding. He was professional. She acts as if she was doing a public service when she wasn’t. I’m not against taping the police. Acting like she pulled a police officer over is ridiculous and may give people a false sense of authority that could lead to negative interactions with police. Cops are being ambushed more and more often. If you see a cop doing something wrong, video and report it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. The cop was professional. It’s not our fault she has a lengthy traffic history.
PINAC has made public records requests for Fonticiella’s GPS logs as well as requests to the Florida Department of Transportation, which maintains cameras on the expressway.
So this notion that we can’t “prove’ he was speeding should be put to rest once those requests are fulfilled. And the longer they are not fulfilled, the more we can assume he was speeding.
Ortiz’s Social Media History
This is not the first time Ortiz has used social media to influence public opinion on citizens trying to hold police accountable.
http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2015/08/13/miami-cops-beat-arrested-suspect-who-complied-cop-watcher-assaulted-too/Now, Ortiz has upped the ante in exposing Claudia Castillo’s personal phone number and work contact information, publishing them on his Facebook account, encouraging officers to harass the woman in retaliation for the gall to correct an officer’s dangerous driving.
In this case, the officer he is defending is not even a member of Ortiz’s union.
Fonticiella is a county cop, whose president, John Rivera, has refrained from doxing Castillo, sticking to defending the officer by saying that one, we can’t prove he was speeding, and two, even if he was speeding, he has special training to know how to speed.
That training apparently has not reached the Miami Police Department where an officer struck a six-year-old named Antoine Lawson Wednesday afternoon, leaving him with serious injuries.
The child’s family members told reporters the officer was driving between 50 to 60 mph without emergency lights. The posted speed limit in that area is not more than 35 mph.
But don’t be surprised is Ortiz turns to social media to accuse the child of being a thug.
After it, it was only last December when he accused 12 year-old Tamir Rice of being “a thug,” even though Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police for playing with a pellet gun, had a clean criminal record.
On the other hand, the cop who killed him, Timothy Loehmann, had a history of mental instability and“dismal” gun performance and had failed written tests and physical exams when he applied for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office before he was eventually hired by Cleveland police who did not bother doing a background check on him.
But Ortiz, who last year was named one of Miami’s Dirty Dozen by the Miami New Times, has never publicly addressed that detail.
Departmental Social Media Policies
Fortunately for Ortiz, the Miami Police Department has no social media policies in place restricting what officers can say on their personal social media pages. We imagine that any effort to implement such a policy would be fought hard by Ortiz and his union.
After all, he frequently uses social media to attack superior officers, including an assistant chief for not placing her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.
On the other hand, the Miami-Dade Police Department has a very strict and detailed policy, which you can read here, a sampling which is posted below.
At least one of the many commenters responding to Ortiz’s attacks on Castillo, Carlos Portela, is a Miami-Dade police officer who suggested Castillo “crawl back under the rock” where she came from.
Another retired Miami-Dade police officer named Greg Kral was surprised Fonticiella did not claim he was in fear for his life to justify beating her.
Other commenters went on to post images of her children and Facebook profile of her boyfriend too. Additionally, they crafted crude memes with her personal photos.
Many of Ortiz’s friends commenting on his posts stated they were calling her using *67 in order to keep their number from appearing on her Caller ID, ironically trying to keep their information private while openly and publicly harassing a private citizen.
Other officers went onto LEOaffairs.com – a public bulletin board allowing anonymous posting – to disclose her public record from Florida’s DAVID system (Driver and Vehicle Information Database). Those officer claim they obtained the information through a clerk of court’s online search, which anybody can do, but when PINAC tried to replicate the search, a date of birth was required to proceed.
The backlash against Castillo is not much different than it was against Florida State Highway patrol officer Donna Jane Watts, who pulled over Miami police officer Fausto Lopez for driving more than 100 mph in 2011. Like Fonticiella, he was also on his way to work.
Police made her life a living hell by sharing her personal information and crank calling her, sending pizzas to her home to teach her a lesson not to enforce laws against officers breaking the laws.
She sued several agencies for unlawfully accessing her personal information and has since received various settlements from various departments.
Don’t be surprised if Castillo ends up doing the same.
PINAC publisher Carlos Miller contributed to this report.