The alleyway where Victor Ortega died, the one that cuts up the middle of Court 84 of the Mesa Village apartments in Mira Mesa, is a little more than 3 feet wide. Enclosed by a high stucco wall on one side and a fence on the other, it’s a cramped space. It’s where, on the morning of June 4, 2012, San Diego police officer Jonathan McCarthy shot and killed the 31-year-old unarmed father of two after Ortega allegedly grabbed for the officer’s gun.
Townhouses surround the alley, but there were no witnesses to Ortega’s death. Two residents told investigators they saw, from their window, McCarthy and Ortega engaged in a struggle, but turned away seconds before shots were fired. Several other people reported hearing Ortega say a stunned “Are you kidding me?” and “I’ll sue you” moments before gunfire.
McCarthy, who had spent just two years on the force before the incident, told police investigators that he feared for his life before he shot Ortega. Based on the officer’s version of events, prosecutors said Ortega’s killing was justified.
But police reports, depositions, interview transcripts and other evidence disclosed in a federal lawsuit filed two years ago by Ortega’s widow reveal inconsistencies in McCarthy’s account of what happened in the alleyway immediately before Ortega’s death. U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns, who is presiding over the case, recently expressed doubt that it would be possible for McCarthy to have done everything he said he did during his altercation with Ortega.
In denying the city’s request to throw out the lawsuit, the judge ruled that McCarthy’s story has enough holes that a jury needs to sort out what happened.
“Plaintiffs,” Burns wrote, “have submitted evidence that would give a reasonable jury pause.”
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If anyone want to read more information about this case, look up an Examiner article from August 2012. Eye opening stuff in there.
Shawn, Shawn, Shawn... (SMH)...
I used to think more like you, but then I learned about this very case through friends here in San Diego and then the recent South Carolina (Walter Scott) case really solidified it for me because of the video evidence.
You and I, we're white guys that likely never have been hassled or downright screwed by the police in the way some brown and black folks have. I know I haven't and I suspect you haven't either. Our perception is very different with respect to trusting the police to protect us and do the right thing. Take a look at that South Carolina (Walter Scott) video - if I grew up around cops that did that, I would run away from them too. Mr. Scott posed absolutely no threat to that cop, but he was gunned down like an animal anyway. Running away and many feet away - shot from behind. And if there was no video, the white folks would say, well he shouldn't have run...
Yes, Victor should not have run. True. But did he deserve to die just because he ran? I don't think he did. If he threatened to put the cop's life in danger, then the cop has to do what he has to do. But the physical evidence (according to a well-respected federal judge) doesn't support the officer's story and the officers conflicting versions of the events gives the judge pause. Given all of that information, I don't think Victor deserved to die that day
The number of cases like this that make it past a Motion for Summary Judgement is very small. That's because the police are given the benefit of the doubt. The fact that these motions were denied is bad sign for the city attorney's office. Worse yet is, I think, punitive damages may still be in play. Not good for any of our tax dollars.
This case reeks of the pre-Shelly Zimmerman SDPD cowboys and their reckless attitude. Combine that with Shady Dumanis, the consummate scummy politician, doing the investigation. And whatdya know? No charges. No $h!t.
The city should pay this out quickly. If this gets to a jury, in today's climate for this type of incident, they're going to need to raise a bunch of tax rates to find the money to pay Ortega's family.
I don't know what I'm doing. But I do know that LE officers in San Diego never get charged.
People do not normally call 9-1-1 on their partners (or threaten to do so) unless they are in fear for their physical safety. Sounds like that was a pattern here and that Ms. Ortega is now downplaying the physical violence against her by her husband on the day in question. What happened between the police officer and Mr. Ortega on the day in question I have no idea. It does appear that Mr. Ortega had violent tendencies, at least with respect to his wife. It thus seems plausible that he reacted violently toward the officer.
@Chris Brewster That's not entirely true Chris; I've seen dozens of cases of people who call 911 not because they are in fear, but because they want to put fear of authority figures in their partner; it's a way to stop an argument. Back when City Attorney Casey Gwinn made an arrest likely as a result of a domestic violence call it became a way for spouses to separate for a bit by simply having one (usually the husband) arrested, only to find that the City Attorney was now prosecuting (and often without a complaining witness). Pretend 911 calls have become quite common as a result.
Certainly Ms. Ortega has an incentive now to downplay whatever danger she felt the morning she called, but in fact we know that it was Mr. Ortega that retreated.
The important distinction is that, whatever prompted the 911 call, Mr. Ortega ran rather than stood and fought; whatever violent tendencies he had at one time, he didn't have them when he decided flight was better than fight.
So people having routine arguments with their spouses, with no fear of violence, call the police to provide counseling services? I'd consider that an abuse of the 9-1-1 system. In this particular case though, I think it's rather evident that there was spouse on spouse violence. Moreover, the police were summoned for a domestic violence case and it is my understanding that they have certain obligations to follow-up in these instances even if the original caller recants. Perhaps you have insight on that?
@DavidM @Chris Brewster Yet you were not there and seem to be implying that you know for a fact that there never was any struggle. The fact is, none of this would have happened if A) the wife didn't call 911 or occasionally cry wolf by pretending to do so, and B) Ortega simply would have cooperated instead of running and/or fighting. On the one hand, the country is up in arms about domestic violence, but on the other hand the police can do practically nothing without being put in difficult situations with violent people. You can't have it both ways. The police are not mind readers and have to respond to 911 calls and take domestic violence seriously. Wives change their minds all of the time because they too are frightened and often in a dither during these situations.
@Chris Brewster The short version is yes, there are a large number of people who abuse 911 because they never learned how to argue with their spouses without alleging victimhood.
I'm not sure that it's "evident," in this case, so much as there is an inconsistency between what Mrs. Ortega said (bleeding from her lip) but a responding officer said there was no visible injury. A bleeding lip would be swollen 15 minutes later. It is possible she called because she wanted police there, and exaggerated her claimed injury to get them there. I'm not trying to side with her or SDPD, since the shooting was more directly related to Mr. Ortega's decision to run rather than what happened earlier.
I don't know what SDPD policy is regarding follow up where the allegedly violent spouse is not on the scene, but I would suspect that casually "looking around" the area is common.
@shawn fox @DavidM @Chris Brewster "On the one hand, the country is up in arms about domestic violence, but on the other hand the police can do practically nothing without being put in difficult situations with violent people."Absolutely true. Police receive domestic violence response training in their POST-certified courses, and are taught that putting themselves into that situation can be extremely dangerous. (An officer in AZ was killed earlier this year on a domestic violence call.)
But even that is secondary to this particular case, where the officer who used deadly force described events in multiple ways, with impossible results. The lack of a walk-thru, or even basic followup questions from the homicide detective, should be troubling to anyone.
What there a struggle? Almost certainly. Did it justify deadly force? I don't know. And the internal investigation should not leave us with an "I don't know."
Thanks. I think her story is completely implausible about the accidental kick to her lip, especially when combined with the 9-1-1 call. So that's what I mean by evident. It's definitely an opinion, not fact. I do think there was a time when police reflexively ignored domestic violence issues, seeing them as a personal issue between two lovers, but have been given forceful encouragement by victim advocates and policy to treat the cases very seriously and to consider that recanting is part of the behavior of abused spouses. Whether the officer acted appropriately in the confrontation with the suspect I cannot opine, but that the officers would have endeavored to follow up after being sent on a report of physical violence against a spouse seems prudent and in accordance with societal expectations these days.
The issue of whether the police should have been called in the first place is an interesting one.
It's sad that an abused woman must balance the danger to herself from
her husband with the danger to her husband from the police. It's quite a
When calling the police, unfortunately, it is necessary for citizens to consider the fact that some police officers lack the training and disposition to correctly judge the appropriate amount of force to use in some encounters.
In a recent South Dakota case, the family of an eight-year-old girl failed to consider this fact: http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/12/native-american-police-over-reacting/
I suspect that the family in South Dakota called the police as a substitute for family counseling. I'd say that family should not have called the police at all.
But sometimes a victim of domestic violence does need assistance from the police.
Given the fact that citizens call police sometimes when they only want to intimidate and frighten a family member, it's important that police be trained to behave differently during these domestic calls than they do when confronting a suspect who is truly a danger to the police.
@Chris Brewster Unfortunately, these type of 911 calls happen everyday in this country. Most of these domestic disturbance calls never lead to anything other than officers calming down one spouse or the other. I want to also share something else with you. I happen to know both Shakina and Victor very very well. Victor was the furthest thing from violent. Victor was the sweetest guy I have ever met. He would not hurt a fly. He was the passive one in the relationship. Although 911 had been called before, NEVER once was Victor ever cited, arrested or charged with anything. All previous 911 calls where made out of frustration by Shakina and not because she had ever been touched or hit. On a few previous occasions the cops would arrive and just tell them to work things out. Which is what they do in most of the domestic calls that come in on a daily basis. Unfortunately,in this incident she could not have imagined that the "peace officers" would end up murdering her husband and father of her children. If you read the article, you will learn that even the witnesses were shocked at the shots fired. They indicate that the tone and energy in Victor's voice/words were of shock and compliance. I can understand because Victor was very sweet and soft spoken. He did not have an aggressive bone in his body. I had to write this because it saddens me that people are judging him and smearing his good character. He was a great guy and showed unconditional love. If you had had the opportunity to meet him you would realize what a wonderful soul has been taken from this earth. He did nothing to deserve this at all....and that is the biggest tragedy of all.
Ms. Peterson: "She told the dispatcher that her husband had hit her and her mouth was bleeding. She initially said she needed an ambulance, but quickly corrected herself to say she needed the police. She told the dispatcher Victor had become angry after she woke him to demand he take Tamia to school." "A little more than a year later, in a deposition, Shakina said she had overreacted. She was tired, she said, and she’d lost her temper. She had yelled, thrown things at him and then sat down on the edge of the bed. When Victor kicked off the bed covers, his foot hit her upper lip, she said, causing it to start bleeding." No one knows what really happened in this regard except the surviving spouse. To my way of thinking, it defies logic that someone would call the police if there were no perceived fear of violence, unless they were making up a story to get the police to respond, which is what your message implies. In any case, under the circumstances, how would the police know she made up the story?
A brown man running from police winds up dead. The officer in fear for his life, he tried to grab my gun, stop resisting. Cops are trained to say those things to cover themselves.
Look at the Jetter arrest on you-tube and listen to what the cops are yelling during the entire arrest and how one important fact was left out of their report.
If not for dash cam footage Jetter would have been serving 20 years in prison. Everything the cops said in this incident was a lie..
@richard brick Your statement doesn't prove anything. A white man resisting arrest or running from police is also likely to be killed. In general, running from police and/or resisting arrest is usually a bad idea if you want to live. Throw in a black person or a brown person and suddenly it is national news. White person; just another day at the office. No need to broadcast that. Nothing to see here.
Good to see reporting on this case, so long ignored, along with hundreds of other people who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in San Diego County . Join Us for a Community Forum
Black and Brown Lives Matter:
Abuse of Power and Law Enforcement in San Diego
Monday, May 11, 2015 7pm
Church of the Brethren 3850 Westgate Place, SD 92105
Aaron Harvey & Brandon Duncan
"Shakina said Dumanis, whom she met with after the shooting, had promised her a thorough review, telling Shakina she would 'treat this like Victor was her own son.'
'I want her to keep her promise,' Shakina said."
We all do, but that's not Dumanis' way.
"Karsh later said in a deposition that he was 'foggy' about what McCarthy had told him."
Because we want our police supervisors to stop paying attention when the discussion is important? Does he not take notes and submit his own reports? How many shootings does someone deal with in their entire career that this one is allowed to become "foggy?" Or can't we all just assume that he didn't know what to say and was simply covering for his officer by doing what SDPD management does best - fail to lead?
In 80% of San Diego County police-involved shootings over the last 20 years, officers didn’t use less-than-lethal force before shooting the person.
Police are unarmed in other countries. Why not here?
@Oscar Ramos It is an apples to oranges comparison. Iceland is no comparison to America. the population density is far different. The types of crimes that occur there are far different. Other places mentioned don't have the same gun laws or lack thereof. I wonder how they deal with terrorist attacks in Iceland. In Norway they can obviously do nothing and when it does happen massive numbers of people are killed. No thank you.
Sorry, we have "massive numbers of people" killed here in the US with law enforcement armed to the nines. There's no logic to that snipe about Norway.