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Miami cop accused of driving 120 mph in squad car to off-duty job

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 1:39 PM EDT, Sun October 30, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez is charged with reckless driving
  • Lopez, 35, was in uniform and driving a marked Miami police car in pre-dawn darkness
  • A camera inside a Florida Highway Patrol car tapes the seven-minute, 12-mile chase
  • Lopez told the arresting officer he was trying to make it on time to his off-duty job

(CNN) -- A Miami police officer in a marked squad car has been charged with reckless driving, accused of zigzagging through Florida Turnpike traffic at more than 120 miles an hour so that he could be on time for his off-duty job, the Florida Highway Patrol said Saturday.

Officer Fausto Lopez, 35, of Miami was handcuffed at gunpoint earlier this month and charged with second-degree reckless driving, a misdemeanor, according to the highway patrol's offense report. Lopez was eventually released, authorities said.

In a pursuit videotaped on the trooper's in-car camera, Lopez led Florida highway patrol officer D.J. Watts on a seven-minute, almost 12-mile chase in pre-dawn darkness on Tuesday, October 11, the report said.

The state patrol officer was driving on the turnpike when the white marked Miami police car blew by at a high rate of speed and "crossed over all lanes of traffic," the report said.

The highway patrol officer couldn't even overtake the Miami police car "due to the unit traveling extremely reckless, in and out of traffic at high rates of speed, in excess of 120 mph," according to the report.

The Miami cop ignored the state patrol officer's siren and lights -- and even "accelerated" at times and continued changing lanes.

At one point, the Miami officer slowed to 78 miles an hour, but sped up again, the highway patrol said.

Finally, the Miami officer, wearing his uniform, pulled over his squad car at 6:35 a.m. in Hollywood. A state highway patrol video shows the state trooper pulling out her service handgun as she approached the Miami police car with the officer seated behind the wheel.

The Miami police officer "stated that he was en route to an off-duty work detail and that he had to be there by 7:00 a.m.," Watts wrote in her report.

On the Florida Highway Patrol offense report, the document lists Fausto's occupation as "police officer" whose employer is "City of Miami Police Departmen(t)" and lists the style of automobile as "police car," a white 2008 Crown Victoria.

A Miami police spokesman couldn't be reached immediately for comment Saturday. But Miami Police Detective Willie Moreno told CNN affiliate WFOR in Miami that the department will determine whether to take any action against Lopez after a judge rules on his case.

The Florida Turnpike is also designated as Florida State Route 91, and the turnpike's website nicknames the highway "The Less Stressway."

CNN's Kara Devlin contributed to this report.

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