A demonstration was held at the steps of San Diego’s Hall of Justice last Wednesday morning to protest the fatal police shooting of 31-year-old Victor Ortega.
On the morning of June 4th, 2012, two officers went to Ortega’s home in the 8800 block of Flanders Drive in Mira Mesa on a “domestic violence report.”
According to initial reports given by homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney, officer John McCarthy tried to “control the suspect” following a brief foot pursuit. The officer was able to “control” Ortega, holding him facedown while attempting to handcuff him. According to Rooney, officer McCarty then noticed that his “backup handgun had fallen out of his holster” and was lying on the ground next to Ortega’s head. After the officer was able to “push away” the gun, Rooney stated that Ortega turned around and reached for the officer’s primary weapon, which is when the officer shot Ortega.
This report was taken by media outlets and used to report on the shooting’s “facts”; only Lt. Rooney later discovered that the original statements based off a “public safety interview” with officer McCarthy were “inaccurate.”
During an interview with Lt. Kevin Rooney, Sgt. Joe Howie, and attorney, officer McCarthy claimed Ortega never made contact with the officer’s primary weapon. One of Victor’s family members spoke to Sgt. Howie over the phone and was told “numerous times” that officer McCarthy explained “he had enough of it and was too tired to go on, so he decided to end it all.”
Following the shooting, officer John McCarthy was put on a short, paid administrative leave and is now back on duty.
Ortega leaves behind two children and a wife.
Last Wednesday, family, friends, and supporters protested at the Hall of Justice in the 330 block of West Broadway in San Diego to put pressure on the D.A. and demand that San Diego police officer, John McCarty, be put on trial for the shooting of Victor Ortega.
At around 10:30 that morning, the group marched into the federal building to hand over 500 petition letters to the District Attorney.
When they arrived at the D.A.’s office, the group was asked to wait for an “investigator” to come and take their petitions, but Victor’s family grew impatient as no one came to accept their letters. “An officer that you guys hired shot one of their family members and you can’t take one minute of our time to accept petitions that we’ve gathered form the community?” asked one supporter.
“That’s what you owe the family,” commented another.
The clerk stated that there was no one “available” to take “this type of request” but agreed to take the letters and hand them to Bonnie personally. The Hall of Justice then echoed with chants of “We are all Victor Ortega!” as the group handed over the stack of petition letters to the D.A.’s clerk and exited the building.
Outside, one of the supporters, Cecile, described that Victor’s case was part of a “national scandal” that includes the families of Alan Blueford from Oakland, Ramarley Graham from New York City, and Anastasio Rojas and Valeria Tachiquin, both killed by US Border Patrol agents.
“People in the community came together with Victor Ortega’s family because when a police murders an innocent victim, it affects all of our safety, it affects everyone,” stated Cecile.
Another speaker cited a passage from “In The Shadows of the War on Terror”, a document that was presented to the United Nations Committee on the “elimination of racial discrimination” in December of 2007:
“This report addresses the U.S. government's failure to comply with its obligations under the Convention to prevent and punish acts of excessive force, rape, sexual abuse, and racial profiling committed by law enforcement officers against people of color…The low rate of criminal prosecution in cases of police brutality remains the principal cause for the perpetuation of violations of human rights by the police, in particular violations of the right to life. The manner in which a Government reacts to human rights violations committed by its agents, through action or omission, clearly shows the degree of its willingness to ensure effective protection of human rights.”
During an interview on a San Diego media outlet the following day, San Diego County District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis, explained that the D.A.’s office handles about 12 officer-involved shooting cases a year.
D.A. Dumanis stated that she has sat down with the family to explain the “protocol” involved with the investigation and stated that, “this is a process that has been going on since the 1970’s, where all of the chiefs and the sheriff and the D.A. join together to form a protocol for this, so we do an independent review of what happened…We send out an investigator who goes out to observe what happens, and gives some suggestions one way or another to the officers who are doing it.” Bonnie Dumanis then explained that she has done a “10-year report” on similar cases of officer-involved shootings.
The 2007 report mentioned is the “Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) Review” formulated by the District Attorney’s office that is meant to provide an “analysis of cases investigated by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office” from 1996-2006.
The report states that “from 1996 through 2006, the SDCDA investigated 200 OIS cases” and cases per year reached a “high of 24 each in 1997 and 2002.”
As in Victor Ortega’s case, the D.A.’s report also indicates “family/domestic disturbance is the most common incident type that officers have gone prior to an officer-involved shooting”, in over half of all OIS cases (60%), “the source of the initial contact was a radio call”, and “race breakdown” of the majority of the cases (42%) was “white (officer) – nonwhite (suspect).”
The D.A.’s website also reveals that the San Diego D.A.’s office has conducted reviews of 43 other cases of police involved shootings from 2009-2012.
The family’s next steps are to demand a retraction of San Diego Police Department’s misinformation to the media during initial reports. They want to make the department “accountable for lying to the public and smearing Victor’s good name.”