A South Florida man is searching for answers to why police shot him in the back, paralyzing him, when he was the one who called police for help.
It was at an apartment building in the 5200 block of Hollywood Boulevard where Michael Ortiz was shot eight months ago. The building has surveillance cameras, and the lawyers for the family told NBC 6 they’ve been trying to get the footage, but police are using the section of the Florida law that allows them to keep the images confidential while an investigation is underway.
From his wheelchair on Monday, Ortiz described waking up from a coma weeks after he was shot by Hollywood police. In early July, Ortiz was having a panic attack and called 911, his family said. Instead of aiding him after he was already lying on the floor and handcuffed, an officer shot him in the back — paralyzing him from the waist down.
“So, just to that police officer why, why you had the need to shoot me? Why there were six grown people and they can’t put me down, cuff me and that’s it, but then they had to use violence,” Ortiz told NBC 6.
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The family’s attorneys announced Monday they were suing Hollywood police in an effort to get them to hand over surveillance video from the building they believe will show exactly what happened.
“We want complete transparency. We think the best avenue to do go down where only the family gets to see it, we all get to see it," attorney Benjamin Crump said.
Crump believes the video will show if police used excessive and unnecessary force.
“You want to know, how are they using this power? Are they following policies and procedures or are they flagrantly disregarding the rights of citizens?” Crump said.
The family said Ortiz wasn’t arrested and alleges Hollywood police weren’t initially honest with them.
“What happened to us changed our lives," said Betty Garcia, Ortiz's mother.
“We were like, what happened? Why was he shot? What happened?" Cynthia Urquidez, Ortiz’s sister, said.
The family said an officer on the phone told them they had to taser Ortiz twice while he was down on the floor and he was shot on the shoulder.
"We were like, why was he shot if he was already tased? And the officer couldn’t give me an explanation,” Urquidez said.
Hunter Skolknik, one of Ortiz's lawyers, has worked for years as a technical data expert.
“We wouldn’t be here announcing a lawsuit over document production if, number one, they offered to sit down and show it to us, and number two, if it wasn’t secured by the police department and held by the police department and not disclosed to us," Skolnik said.
Ortiz described what his days are like now.
“It’s almost like going back to birth because I have to learn how to go to the bathroom. I have to learn how to get out of my bed,” Ortiz said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is handling the investigation and told NBC 6 it's still underway and their policy is not to release anything until they’re done.
Hollywood Police issued a statement, saying Ortiz was "combative" with paramedics and was visibly agitated while saying he was going to jump.
"The Hollywood Police Department notified the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) which responded to conduct an investigation. While the investigation is still active and ongoing, an initial review suggests the officer intended to deploy his taser, but instead discharged his firearm," the statement read in part. "The Hollywood Police Department is fully cooperating
with FDLE and providing additional information as the investigation continues."