By Ed Lyon
A Sheriff’s Department deputy in California’s Orange County has forfeited a 20-plus-year law enforcement career by assaulting a mentally ill detainee at the county lockup. The deputy, Guadalupe Ortiz, 47, was fired on December 10, 2021, four days before he was charged with a felony count of assault or battery by a public officer and another felony count of battery with serious bodily injury.
The incident underlying the charges took place at the Sheriff’s Intake Release Center in Santa Ana on April 1, 2021, when the detainee, an unnamed mentally ill man, refused guards’ commands to remove his hands from an open hatch in a door so they could close it. Ortiz, who was also working as a guard at the lockup, then offered to help his confederates, filling a cup with hot water from a dispenser before stepping over to the open hatch and pouring the scalding water on the detainee’s hands. When the man recoiled in pain and withdrew his hands from the hatch, the guard closed the hatch without inquiring to see if or how badly burned the victim was.
In fact, no one checked on the detainee for another six-and-a-half hours, when he complained about his burns to another jailer conducting a security check. That’s when the detainee’s arms were observed to be “red and peeling” with what were later diagnosed as first- and second-degree burns.
District Attorney Todd Spitzer was quick to criminally charge Ortiz for the assault, saying that “[i]t is my responsibility to hold Sheriff’s deputies and other jail staff accountable when they fail to properly protect those in their care.”
“And now a deputy is throwing away a 22-year-career for inflicting unnecessary harm on a mentally ill inmate out of frustration,” Spitzer added.
County records reflect that Ortiz earned a total of $118,927.91 in 2019. Besides losing his job, he now faces up to four years in prison if convicted, learning the hard way perhaps that pouring scalding water on another person is not an acceptable “April Fools” joke.
Sources: KTLA, Los Angeles Times
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