Miami-Dade firefighter facing accusations of sexual attacks by women colleagues while on the job
A Miami-Dade firefighter is the subject of an internal investigation after two colleagues came forward saying he tried to rape them on the job several years ago.
Both women, who are currently Miami-Dade firefighters, both alleged they were attacked and sexually violated by a colleague.
They claim the attacks happened more than ten years ago, but the alleged attacker, Firefighter Jose Lopez, is now the subject of an internal investigation which the fire department confirms stems from allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I was fighting as hard as I could to get him off of me because in my mind, I didn’t want to get raped,” said the first accuser.
The two women, who are not being identified for privacy reasons, said they didn’t know each other and neither reported the incidents at the time. Too ashamed, they said, and afraid of what it would mean for their careers.
“You don’t report things like that,” the first accuser said. “You’re in a male-dominated field, you didn’t want to get the reputation of being the girl the guys can’t be around.”
It wasn’t until years after the alleged attacks that the two women worked a shift at the same firehouse. It was then, the pieces began coming together.
They said they were both stunned when they realized the alleged attacks that happened inside the Department’s North Miami East Fire Rescue Station were not isolated incidents.
The second accuser asked the first why she chose to sleep on the recliner in the firehouse instead of the dorms.
“I always feel like if I have to fight for my life or fight somebody off, I can do it better in an open space,” she explained.
“The chills ran down my back and I paused and I froze and then I said it’s the same guy, the same station,” said the second accuser.
Each woman told Local 10 News the attacks happened at Fire Station 20 in northeast Miami-Dade County.
At night, when it was time to sleep and lights out, they claim Lopez tried to rape them.
“I was able to get my hands free and I’m trying to push them off and, and do the whole thing with ripping his ears off his head and somehow I managed to knee him in the groin area,” said the first woman.
She went onto say she got away after several minutes of struggling.
The second woman says Lopez attacked her a total of three times in the dorm when she was asleep.
“He held me down forcefully, as he was thrusting his body on me,” the second woman recounted. “And he was sticking his tongue down my throat and all over my face. It was it was like a horror movie.”
The second woman said it happened two more times leading to a confrontation with Lopez.
She says Lopez told her, “I thought you were one of the cool girls.”
After learning of each other’s allegations, both women came forward and reported the alleged attacks in April 2022. One woman reported the alleged attack to Miami-Dade Police detectives who told Local 10 News they opened a battery investigation, which is still ongoing.
Both women then reported the alleged assaults to the fire department. On April 22, 2022, the department launched an internal investigation and placed Lopez on administrative duty.
“I don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” said the first accuser. “I would like an explanation for that.”
As nearly a year went by, the women say they were in the dark about the investigation until Local 10 News began asking questions back in March.
That’s when the women said they were interviewed.
In a statement to Local 10 News, Fire Chief Rai Jadallah says the department took immediate action when it learned of these allegations, saying:
“Immediate action was taken by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) when these allegations were brought to our attention, and we are currently in the process of investigating this matter. Because this is an ongoing investigation, details of the incident in question cannot be discussed.
“In order to ensure transparency throughout this process, it is important to note that, in this case and in any other incident involving MDFR employees, allegations concerning inappropriate behavior or misconduct are meticulously and exhaustively investigated.
“Any misconduct by public servants is a violation of our public’s trust and will not be tolerated. At the conclusion of the investigation, any MDFR employee found to be in violation of our policies or procedures will face appropriate discipline or termination.”
The fire department told Local 10 News the case was first given to Miami-Dade County’s Human Resources Department before being returned to them in December of 2022.
Local 10 News reached out to Lopez for weeks to give him an opportunity to respond to the allegations, but never heard back.
When Local 10 News’ Amy Viteri finally caught up with Lopez, he told her he couldn’t speak and she had to speak to Miami-Dade Fire Headquarters.
Both women say they worry they’re not alone.
“I truly believe because our stories are so similar that we are not alone and we are not the only ones,” the second woman said.
Miami-Dade Police told Local 10 News the police report is not available yet.
Since the alleged attacks happened more than 10 years ago, police say can’t investigate them as sex crimes due to the statute of limitations.
Miami-Dade Fire noted that Chief Jadallah took over in August 2022 and says he has made it a “priority to streamline the process of the investigations in order to ensure proper and timely handling of these cases.”
They went onto say that reaching witnesses after 10 years has “proven to be difficult and not without challenges. With that said, the team in charge of the investigation has been working diligently since Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received the incident for investigation in December 2022.”