Deputies Shot Teen-Ager in Back, Lawyer Charges
An autopsy showed that a 15-year-old Montebello boy killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy this week was shot in the back, according to an attorney for the dead teen-ager’s family.
Attorney Miguel F. Garcia said the deputy should be investigated for murder based on an autopsy, which was attended by a private pathologist hired by the family.
The Friday morning autopsy by the county coroner found that the unarmed teen-ager, David Angel Ortiz, was hit in the lower back, the ankle and the back of the neck, Garcia said.
A spokesman for the coroner’s office, Scott Carrier, confirmed only that the fatal wound was to the back of Ortiz’s neck. Carrier declined to provide other details on the autopsy, saying the report is still being written.
The shooting occurred Wednesday in Artesia after a high-speed chase in which two deputies pursued Ortiz and another youth, also 15. The deputies said that the teen-agers were driving a stolen car, and that Ortiz tried to flee after the car hit a curb and stopped.
It was the third fatal shooting this month by Los Angeles deputies, each sharply criticized by witnesses and the victims’ families.
The mother of the second youth in the car said that she saw the incident, half a block from her house, and that Ortiz was shot without provocation after obeying the deputies’ commands to halt.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, however, Deputy Jose Belmares, 29, used his gun because he believed Ortiz was reaching for his waist.
In addition to challenging the official version of the shooting, Garcia, the family’s lawyer, charged that Ortiz could have been saved had paramedics arrived more quickly. Instead of summoning paramedics right away, he said, the deputies handcuffed the youth as he lay bleeding on the ground.
“David Ortiz drowned in his own blood,” Garcia said, explaining that the autopsy showed the youth died because blood flooded his lungs.
Agreeing with him was the pathologist hired by the family, Dr. Irving Root, until this year the chief pathologist for the San Bernardino County coroner.
“The boy, he could have survived if he had had his air passage opened,” Root said.
Garcia said at least 10 minutes passed before paramedics arrived.
In addition to the dead youth’s family, Garcia is representing the other boy in the car. According to that 15-year-old, Garcia said, the deputies rammed the back of the car when Ortiz, the driver, tried to stop shortly after the chase began.
The deputies told investigators that they drew their guns and began firing because the youths stopped, then backed up and rammed the deputies’ car.
Garcia said his client told him that Ortiz accelerated only after the deputies rammed the car and began firing at them.
Root said the bullet that struck Ortiz in the ankle probably passed through the car door on the driver’s side.
To determine if the deputies shot through the car door during a chase, Root said, "(Investigators) can certainly look at the car and answer that question real quick.”