Miami police union chief Javier Ortiz can’t get enough of Claudia Castillo — and it’s been nothing but trouble for him since their first encounter over a year ago.
The latest blow in their now 14-month long feud: Ortiz was relieved of duty with pay Friday after Castillo told a judge that the lieutenant stalked her at City Hall after she gave testimony to the city’s Civilian Investigative Panel about an encounter she had with a police officer.
The judge set an April 5 hearing date for Ortiz to make an argument to reclaim his post and to get his gun back, which by policy was taken away until the issue is resolved.
“She was visibly upset because he sat near her,” said Danny Suarez, a Miami commission candidate and former CIP member who helped walk Castillo from the chamber after the Tuesday meeting. “He was watching her through the bathroom window. I advised her to get a restraining order against the guy.”
Castillo, who spoke with the Miami Herald last year, turned down a request for interview Friday. Suarez said Castillo was walked to her car by a high-ranking police officer and Ortiz never left City Hall.
Ortiz referred questions to Robert Buschel, an FOP attorney who said his client did nothing wrong and he has witnesses who will attest to that.
“I interviewed a high-ranking police official who was there and said this is nonsense. There was absolutely no concern for her safety,” Buschel said. “This is the danger of ex parte [one party] complaints.”
On Tuesday, Castillo was before the CIP to complain that Ortiz harassed her on social media after her encounter with police officer Daniel Fonticiella in January 2016. She chased the cop for miles along Miami-Dade County’s busiest highways and told him he was speeding after he finally came to a stop.
She also taped their encounter on her cellphone. The video went viral — and Ortiz wasn’t happy.
The lieutenant, who has a large social media footprint that he’s used to pick fights with residents, police supervisors, even one of the world’s biggest musical superstars, began blasting Castillo on Facebook and Twitter.
He called her a #COPHater and posted a picture of her drinking beer while steering a boat. He posted her business card and urged people to call her at work and on her cellphone. The fight with Castillo caught the attention of local filmmaker Billy Corben, who has also had a long-standing feud with the lieutenant.
Corben urged his tens of thousands of Twitter followers to complain about Ortiz on Facebook. They did. Facebook took down Ortiz’s posts. The lieutenant put them right back up. Facebook took them back down.
Ortiz doesn’t shy away from a social media fight very often. In the past several years he bashed a high-ranking female Muslim Miami police officer for not covering her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. He went after a woman who posted an arrest in Liberty City. He supported police after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. He called Tamir Rice, a young boy shot and killed by police in Cleveland, a thug.
And he urged Miami police to boycott a Beyoncé concert at Marlins Park last year because he believed a video she made had an anti-police message.
In December the police department finally determined that Ortiz had broken department policy in regard to his posts about Castillo. He was reprimanded. Tuesday, Castillo took her fight to the CIP, which determined that she had been harassed by Ortiz and sent its findings to police chief Rodolfo Llanes.
In her statement to the CIP, Castillo said she was so unnerved by Ortiz’s posts about her that she couldn’t sleep, had to lock her doors at all hours and that strange people were showing up at her office.
Then on Wednesday, the court weighed in.
“Respondent shall have no contact with petitioner. Respondent shall not directly or indirectly contact petitioner in person, by mail, email, fax, telephone, through another person or in any other manner,” the restraining order reads.
Llanes, the police chief, said Ortiz can still perform administrative functions as union president, but he can’t take part in any police activities.
“He got served with a restraining order and in the restraining order it says he can't have any firearms,” said Llanes. “So he turned in his firearms and he'll be relieved of duty [with pay] until his court date.”
Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.