“Dedicated, tireless, crime fighter,” “Role model,” “Mentor,” “Hero,” are only a few of the accolades used to describe Jerry Ortiz, the peace officer, the man. On June 24, this 35 year-old 15-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department,” who could light up a room with his smile,” laid down his life in the Line of Duty.
On that fateful day, Deputy Ortiz who was assigned to a gang suppression unit at Lakewood Station, was conducting a follow-up investigation searching for a suspect wanted for attempted murder. Ortiz was standing in the doorway of an apartment located in the City of Hawaiian Gardens questioning a woman who had answered the door, when a man brandishing a handgun suddenly appeared from behind the woman, and without warning fired one round which struck Ortiz in the head. The shooter, later identified as Jose Luis Orozco (27), an ex-convict gang member with an extensive criminal record fled the scene. Deputy Ortiz mortally wounded was transported via helicopter to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Several square blocks surrounding the scene of the shooting were cordoned off and a massive manhunt for the suspect was undertaken. Several hours after the search began Jose Luis Orozco was located and arrested at a residence three blocks from the shooting cowering in a bathtub. He will be charged with the murder of a peace officer, a crime calling for the death penalty, if convicted.
Deputy Jerry Ortiz was being praised by his peers and superiors as “a highly motivated professional who invariably arrived early and stayed late”. An outstanding member of the Sheriff’s boxing team, he was admired for his courage and tenacity, both inside and outside of the ring. Attesting to his courage as a peace officer, Ortiz had aggressively pursued an assignment to the Department’s “Gang Detail,” a dangerous assignment where he had spent the last five years. Just a year ago he had been awarded the Departments’ Medal of Honor after he fatally shot a carjacker who had drawn a gun on he and his partner, a further example of his exemplary conduct under fire.
Sadly, almost unbelievably, the Ortiz family had suffered a second tragedy in less than six months. On January 10, Correctional Peace Officer Manuel A. Gonzales, Jr. was stabbed to death while on duty at CIM, the Chino State Prison. Gonzales was Jerry’s brother-in-law. Compounding the double tragedy was the fact that Jerry and his new wife, Chela, had been married for less than three weeks.
On the morning of June 30, a memorial mass befitting a true hero, Deputy Jerry Ortiz, was conducted by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
Outgoing Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, incoming Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, District Attorney Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton joined more than 6,000 law enforcement officers from California and adjoining States for the two-hour service conducted by Cardinal Mahony.
In a final tribute to the fallen officer, flags at the State Capitol and in the City of Los Angeles were being flown at half-staff.
The motorcade escorting the remains of Jerry Ortiz from the Cathedral to final rest at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles was so large, with more than 2,000 vehicles, that it took the motorcade more than 90 minutes to make the five-mile trip.
Deputy Jerry Ortiz is survived by his new bride, Chela, and two sons from a previous marriage, Jeremy (16) and Jacob (6).
A Trust Fund was established in the name of the Ortiz family, No. 285. Contributions should be mailed to Sheriff’s Relief Association, Star Center, 11515 Colima Rd., Whittier, CA 90604.