2018 DUI traffic stop at center of lawsuit over officer’s use of personal cellphone to capture video

MAITLAND, Fla. — It was after midnight when former Maitland police officer Alexander Cruz said he spotted a woman speeding along Highway 17/92 near Park Avenue, with no headlights or taillights on.

Cruz said by the time he caught up to the driver, she was weaving in and out of traffic lanes. At one point, he clocked her speeding at 70 mph in a 45 mph zone heading toward the Seminole County line, where the driver eventually stopped.

What may have happened in the days and even weeks after the routine traffic stop in October of 2018 is now at the center of a lawsuit just filed against the City of Maitland, Maitland Police and Cruz, who is no longer an officer with the department.

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The lawsuit alleges Cruz, who had been hired in 2017, was joined by his sergeant on the DUI stop, who used his personal cellphone to record the driver’s DUI tests to determine if she was in fact impaired.

She was arrested and faced charges for driving under the influence, but once she was released, the lawsuit alleges Cruz contacted the woman using his personal email and cell phone number, at times leading her to believe he was acting in an official capacity as an officer.

He allegedly began telling her that he was interested, made promises to assist her with her arrest and charges, and she worried that rejecting the advances might put her in further legal jeopardy.

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The woman said Cruz persisted in his sexual advances despite her rejection. The department later launched an investigation which focused on whether he ever violated policy by having sex on duty.

“I did not have sex with her that night, I did not touch her inappropriately, she was drunk,” Cruz stated during a recorded internal affairs interview.

We’ve received no response, though we’ve made repeated attempts to get a comment from the Maitland police chief, city manager and mayor.

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A fellow officer testified that Cruz called him and bragged about having sexual relations with the woman: “He stated that he had met up with the female from the arrest that evening when he was off on vacation.”

The investigator questioned whether Cruz specifically said that he had sex with the woman.

“The way he put it was probably a little more vulgar than that,” he replied.

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The officer told investigators that just before he hung up from the phone call with Cruz, he told him it was a stupid decision, and he really wishes he hadn’t told him. He said Cruz later told him the whole thing was a joke.

And that’s what Cruz shared when he was interviewed by investigators during a probe that was initiated to focus on whether he had sex with the arrestee while on duty, which he denied.

“I was like ‘Hey, dude, I was messing with you,’” Cruz said he told the other officer.

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But he refused to answer questions about whether he had interactions with the woman after she was released from jail, and the investigator didn’t push him.

“Obviously I want to give you an answer, but I don’t want to throw myself in a hole if she wants to come here and say that I did or didn’t do that,” Cruz stated.

FDLE records show Cruz voluntarily separated from the department a few months after the incident, and there are no records indicating he’s currently working in law enforcement. He was suspended for 24 hours for standards of conduct, conduct toward a superior and code of conduct, though the internal investigation determined allegations of sex while on duty were unfounded.

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The lawsuit also alleges that the sergeant on the traffic stop went back to police headquarters and showed that cell phone video he recorded to other officers for visual enjoyment and said: “She was one of the top-three most attractive he’s ever pulled over.”

We could not get any information from Maitland Police as to whether he was investigated for that, though an officer told internal affairs that the first time he saw the cellphone video was when the sergeant showed it off to others.

According to the internal affairs report, investigators never interviewed the woman arrested that night, acknowledging that they could during one of the audio recordings we obtained.

“Leading up to the interview with you, I had no reason to speak with her … I certainly could have … but that was nothing leading me to do that based on the sworn testimony I had with those two people,” the investigator said, referring to the other two officers interviewed.

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