San Clemente Police Cleared in Man’s Death

Times Staff Writer

The district attorney’s office has concluded that a man who scuffled with six San Clemente police officers last November and died a short time later had ingested a fatal dose of cocaine.

A San Clemente police statement Tuesday quoted Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Avdeef’s report on his department’s investigation into the death of Raul Felipe Ortiz.

The report exonerated the officers of any wrongdoing in the Nov. 25, 1984, incident, in which three of six officers attempting to arrest Ortiz were injured, according to the San Clemente press release written by Lt. Robert McDonnell, acting chief of police.

Investigations Ended


McDonnell said his department received the “final report” on the district attorney’s investigation April 24 and that the report effectively ends the investigation.

The police officials, as a matter of routine, requested the district attorney’s office to conduct a separate investigation of the incident.

A witness to the scuffle told reporters he had seen one of the first two officers at the scene hit Ortiz in the head with his police baton several times. However, a preliminary autopsy reportedly showed no sign of severe bruising on Ortiz’s body, and an Orange County deputy coroner said Ortiz died of cocaine inhalation. The quantity of drug found in Ortiz’s body was not released by San Clemente police officials, and the coroner did not have the information immediately available.

The report said, in part, that “Mr. Ortiz died as a result of acute intoxication from his voluntary ingestion of cocaine.


“While his assaultive and bizarre behavior forced police officers to control him,” Avdeef wrote, “I do not believe that the actions of the officers who subdued Mr. Ortiz caused or contributed to his death.

“Indeed, it appears that the officers who responded to the call acted with commendable discretion and restraint under the particular circumstances.”

Business Owner

Ortiz, 31, owner of a San Clemente tree-trimming business, was suspected of being under the influence of drugs when officers first encountered him--shirtless and sweating profusely in cold weather--shortly after midnight Nov. 25, 1984, in the 300 block of Avenida Santa Barbara.

Police say Ortiz, the married father of three children, had forced his way into a home on that street just before midnight and confronted a woman who was alone inside.

When officers stopped Ortiz in the street outside, “It was apparent he was under the influence of some form of drugs,” the prepared statement said. “Ortiz became extremely combative, requiring additional officers to respond in an effort to restrain him.”

Officer Injured

During the struggle, three officers were injured, one of them requiring “multiple” stitches to the head after Ortiz allegedly struck the officer with his own baton. Ortiz also tried to take the officer’s gun, police said.


After the violent scuffle with the six officers, paramedics arrived and found Ortiz shackled and prone without a pulse or breath. Efforts to revive him failed, and Ortiz was declared dead upon arrival at a hospital.