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EXCESSIVE FORCE

Overzealous FL Deputies Taze One Gay Bar Patron, Slam Another’s Head Into Pavement

Robert Ortiz (right) walks with a cane and can’t speak without his hand pressed to his throat because of a tracheotomy. But on January 9, two Fort Myers, FL, deputies thought they heard gunshots coming from his direction so they ordered him to get on his hands and knees. And when he didn’t—because he was physically unable—they tazed him. “I felt like trash when he did that to me,” he said. “It was so wrong.”

According to Fox 4 News, Ortiz was one of six other patrons standing outside a gay bar, The Office Pub, who was told to drop to the ground by the cops. Only, it turns out those “gunshots” they heard were actually just Bill Broccio, one of the gay bar patrons, slamming his car door three times because he was upset. Broccio claims one of the two deputies slammed his head into the concrete three times. Hospital records show he had to be treated for injuries and given pain medication that night.

Warren Miller, who owns the Office Pub, says, “They were charging at us with their guns drawn and flashlights on us and said, ‘Get on your knees,’ and we didn’t move to get on our knees right away, so then they said, ‘Get on your knees or we will shoot you!’ ”

A bar patron who witnessed the event told Fox 4, “We don’t need to be treated like that. I don’t care who you are in this community you don’t need to be treated like that at all.”

A spokesman said the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the matter further and that “we’ll hold our people accountable if they’ve done something wrong.”

Why does that not fill us with confidence?

By:           Evan Mulvihill
On:           Jan 19, 2012
Tagged: , ,
  • 26 Comments
    • Triple S
      Triple S

      I shan’t be surprised if nothing happens

      Jan 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      It absolutely would have happened at a straight bar. If you think that someone is shooting off a gun & you can’t tell where it’s coming from. It’s going to spark a heavy handed reaction.

      What happened to the disabled guy is very unfortunate. No justification there, really. A lot of diabetics get harsh treatment when having an insulin reaction (diabetic here). If someone can’t comprehend what’s being said to them, and they’re staggering around, etc. Bad things happen there too.

      They may have thought that this guy was the shooter, based on perceived non-compliance. But again, it’s really unfortunate. But I wouldn’t start screaming “homophobic cops!” because it was at a gay bar.

      Jan 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MoJo
      MoJo

      Lee county? Fort Myers? Ya, but What state?

      Jan 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Devin
      Devin

      @MoJo: That would be Florida.

      Jan 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • the crustybastard
      the crustybastard

      A car door slamming doesn’t sound anything like a gunshot.

      Seriously.

      Jan 19, 2012 at 8:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavyJones
      DavyJones

      I don’t really think this has to do with homophobia so much as it has to do with totally unprofessional cops acting completely out of hand. However there is difference in the quote as reported in the linked artical, and here. The link says:

      “Bar owner Warren Miller says the two deputies ran towards them and, “they were charging at us with their guns drawn and flashlights on us and said get on your knees and we didn’t move to get on our knees right away so then they said (***expletive***) get on your knees or we will shoot you!””

      Depending on what that “***expletive***” is would pretty drastically affect how I’d view the situation…

      Jan 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      Sue the bastards. It’s the only way to get their attention: this is America, where the national religion is the worship of the Almighty Dollar (not so “mighty” these days).

      Jan 19, 2012 at 10:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dirty Ole Man
      Dirty Ole Man

      This is a typical over bearing cops issue. Not a gay issue. Cops frequently overreact….
      then ask questions later.

      Damn I have been past that place 100’s of times. Never knew there was a bar there. Have to check it out!

      Jan 20, 2012 at 12:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      @the crustybastard: Slammed 3 times, probably in rapid succession. From a distance. Who the hell slams a door three times. Yeah, 3 quick loud bangs, from a distance… plausible.

      And I love the speculation of “*I* would have handled it SO much better”. Whatever. I’d love to see how calm and collected you are when you think someone is randomly shooting a gun. Every second counts, but yeah – YOU’d be so much better. *eye roll*

      Jan 20, 2012 at 12:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RVH
      RVH

      @Allen D.: The officers’ reactions are totally indefensible, but don’t let that stop you from defending them.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 1:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      So they thought there was an active gunman in the vicinity… what the situation turned out to be ‘worst case scenario’ (as often it is)? What if every fucking person in front of the bar got shot? I can already hear the cries of “they didn’t do more! Gay people lost their lives because the cops are homophobic and didn’t act quickly enough! They didn’t do enough!”

      Again, I would love to see the reactions of the commentators if they were around gunfire. I can imagine nothing but pissed pants and screaming & cowering in a corner.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 1:17 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 11 · Allen D. wrote, “Again, I would love to see the reactions of the commentators if they were around gunfire. I can imagine nothing but pissed pants and screaming & cowering in a corner.”

      Since the bar’s customers where not engaged in “pissed pants and screaming & cowering in a corner,” we can surmise that they did not think it sounded like nearby gunfire. If they could tell, why couldn’t the police? As to the guy slamming the door, maybe he was an obnoxious drunk at worst, but why did they have to slam his head onto the ground three times when there were two police officers to handcuff him? And why did they attack a disabled person who, judging from the picture, is in terrible physical condition?

      The whole thing sounds suspicious. My opinion is that “sounds like gunfire” is as believable as that Italian captain’s claim that he did not “abandon ship” but “tripped and tumbled into a lifeboat.”

      Jan 20, 2012 at 1:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      @B: Hmmm. Yeah, you’re right. Drunk people outside of a bar are keen observers of what’s going on around them. Maybe when blood started spraying out of bullet holes they’d notice. Again, you have to expect the worst case scenario.

      And yes, the disabled guy COULD have been the shooter. I forget that someone who is in “terrible physical condition” can’t shoot a gun. MY BADS! The guy could have easily been the shooter, concealed the weapon, proceeded to ignore the requests of the police (adding more to the suspicion), and (again, worst case) whip the gun back out & shoot the cops. A badge is a target in any hostile situation.

      I hate to get engaged in these discussions. But seriously, everyone thinks they can do a better job than the police. If there were bullets flying around your workplace, I guarantee that there wouldn’t be a lot of “clear, reasoned thinking”. You have to react. When there’s a chance that you, or those around you, could be killed… You won’t be thinking “reasonable force” etc. You’re thinking “stop whatever is going on, NOW”. If you’re not hiding under your desk, that is.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 2:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      Also — did anyone else notice that Queerty removed the line about the patron’s injuries NOT being in the police report?

      Seriously, this site has zero credibility.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 2:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Codswallop
      Codswallop

      I wonder what John Waters would have to say about this?

      http://kitschyliving.tumblr.com/post/10270641726/tastyfake-guys-did-you-know-that-john-waters

      Jan 20, 2012 at 3:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      @Codswallop: And yet, if his Mom was raped or murdered (no, I’m not going to google whether or not she’s alive, as I don’t care)… I’d bet he would be pretty thankful for cops.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 3:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 13 · Allen D. wrote, “@B: Hmmm. Yeah, you’re right. Drunk people outside of a bar are keen observers of what’s going on around them. Maybe when blood started spraying out of bullet holes they’d notice. Again, you have to expect the worst case scenario.”

      So Allan “thinks” all 6 of them must have been drunk just because they were standing outside a gay bar with no evidence whatsoever for that claim?

      Then Allen goes on with “And yes, the disabled guy COULD have been the shooter. I forget that someone who is in terrible physical condition’ can’t shoot a gun. MY BADS!”

      So, some disabled guy who can’t manage to kneel down and needs a cane to walk was somehow
      a believable suspect for shooting a nonexistent gun? Since he needed a cane to walk, we
      can surmise that one hand was holding the cane. The police only had to look to see that
      nothing was in his other hand. Meanwhile, Allen completely ignores what is going on. I’ll refer interested readers to http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/taser_abuse/taser-abuse-heart-injury-stun-guns-4-15755.html for starters. It includes a case where a guy was shot with a taser while sitting on the couch in his living room, merely for refusing (or failing) to comply with a request. Non-compliance, as opposed to active resistance, is not an acceptable reason to use a taser.

      http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice_prisoners-rights_drug-law-reform_immigrants-rights/unregulated-use-taser-stun-guns-th has more information on the problem. Apparently many police departments rely on training material provided by the manufacturer, who has an incentive to encourage the use of tasers to increase sales. But hey, this is America, where we can’t possibly allow a few hundred deaths to get in the way of corporate profits.
      This article, BTW, cites one fatality in which a person was “tased” 17 times in three minutes. Care to try to explain that one away? With that sort of police behavior, if there were any justice, the officer would be charged with manslaughter.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 4:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TMikel
      TMikel

      @Allen D.: Huh? You really believe this would happen at a straight bar? I disagree. Florida is far from a safe place for the LGBT community at present and the police in general in many cities treat us as subhuman. Tasers are used far to readily when taking a few moments to undestand and resolve matters would avoid their use – from reports we have, the police are far too ready to use them. They should be outlawed. And what sort of police officer cannot distinguish between the slam of a car door and a gun shot?

      Jan 20, 2012 at 4:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      @TMikel: And AGAIN:

      Slammed 3 times, probably in rapid succession. From a distance. Who the hell slams a door three times. Yeah, 3 quick loud bangs, from a distance… plausible.

      =

      There. Again, I would love to read all the cries of “where were the cops?!” when there are 10 dead people in front of a gay bar. “They didn’t come because they’re homophobes!” etc. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” profession.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 5:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      Every police agency claims that they hold their people accountable. None of them actually do. Police work with each other. Most of them actively avoid embarrassing each other. You can’t blame them — you would do the same thing for the people you work with.

      The proper venue to review actions of executive-branch officers is in court. That’s what courts are for.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 5:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RomanHans
      RomanHans

      @Allen D.: It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” profession.

      Wait — so the police have never abused their power, and we can’t criticize them? Sorry: the cops are at LEAST equal enemies as friends. Speaking as someone who’s been harassed for being gay, and who’s witnessed police harassment on many occasions such as Occupy Wall Street.

      Yeah, slamming a car door sounds EXACTLY like gunfire. Grab the handle, click the latch, swing the door open, slam it. Grab the handle, click the latch, swing the door open, slam it.

      I don’t know angry gunmen who wait ten seconds in between shooting.

      Plus yes, if there are six gay men closer to the “gunman” who totally ignore these sounds, you should PROBABLY think twice about calling the SWAT team.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RVH
      RVH

      @Allen D.: lol

      Jan 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • bandanajack
      bandanajack

      clearly y’all don’t know lee county, famous for its homophobic… and crooked sheriffs department. the office is one of only two gay bars in town, so they knew the clientele was gay.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • bandanajack
      bandanajack

      y’all don’t know lee county, famous for its homophobic… and crooked, sheriffs department. the office is one of only two gay bars in town, so they knew the clientele was gay.

      Jan 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 19 · Allen D. wrote, “There. Again, I would love to read all the cries of “where were the cops?!” when there are 10 dead people in front of a gay bar. ”

      Aside from the question of how you end up with 10 dead people when there were 6 standing outside, what do you think public reaction would be regarding “where were the cops?” when the answer is, “busy tasing a hapless disabled guy because he was incapable of getting on his hands and knees and couldn’t tell the cops easily because of a tracheotomy tube that is clearly visible in the photo above.”

      Jan 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TASTEY GOODIES
      TASTEY GOODIES

      @bandanajack: Is the other bar TBL (THE BOTTOM LINE) still around? I used go there w/ my bi friend, Richard in ’95. Good times, cool place.

      Jan 23, 2012 at 4:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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