South Florida's most notorious speeding cop has been fired.
Miami police Officer Fausto Lopez signed a termination letter this week and was formally relieved of duty, a police source said Friday. He's been home collecting a paycheck since mid July, when internal affairs investigators recommended he be fired for habitually flying through Broward County in his patrol car.
Lopez, 36, became the poster child for police speeding nearly a year ago, when his early morning commute to a moonlighting job made national news. Running late and weaving his police cruiser through traffic on Florida's Turnpike, Lopez whizzed by a state trooper, who flipped on her lights and followed him at speeds she said exceeded 120 mph.
The Oct. 11 high-speed pursuit – caught on the trooper's dashboard camera – went viral and prompted a Sun Sentinel investigation of police speeding in February. Using SunPass toll records, the newspaper found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies drove their cruisers above 90 mph during the previous year, mostly while off duty.
Lopez stood out as the most frequent speeder, regularly averaging more than 100 mph on his drive between Miami and his home in Coconut Creek. Miami police conducted their own investigation and confirmed Lopez's speeds.
Lopez had worked for the department six years and was paid $52,000 a year. He has 15 days to appeal his termination to a civil service board. Lopez could not be reached, and calls to the Miami Fraternal Order of Police president were not returned.
A Miami police spokesman declined to comment, and Chief Manuel Orosa could not be reached. In an interview with the Sun Sentinel in June, the chief said he could not understand why his officers felt entitled to speed off duty in their police cruisers.
"It keeps me wondering as to what were they thinking when they were going over 80, 90 mph, day in and day out,'' Orosa said. "That's really astonishing.''
Lopez's firing caps a tumultuous year for the officer described by supporters as a hard-working family man. The October traffic stop by Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jane Watts resulted in a misdemeanor reckless driving charge against Lopez and a 1-month suspension at work.
He pleaded no contest in the criminal case, was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and has no criminal record.
His well-publicized traffic stop set off a feud among Miami cops and FHP troopers, with accusations flying on police blogs. Posters personally attacked Watts, and someone smeared feces on another trooper's patrol car.
Lopez never spoke publicly about the incident or his penchant for speeding.
His termination will not preclude him from getting a job at another police department. Habitual speeding is not a reportable violation to the state commission that certifies officers, a spokeswoman has said.
Lopez received the harshest punishment handed out to South Florida's speeding cops. In all, 158 state troopers and officers were disciplined as a result of the Sun Sentinel investigation, most of them receiving a reprimand and losing their take-home cars for up to six months.
Ten of Lopez's fellow officers at the Miami Police Department were recommended for suspensions, prompting a charge by the police union president that the department was being unusually severe.