Man Accused Of Firing On Three Officers In Indio To Stand Trial

Man Accused Of Firing On Three Officers In Indio To Stand Trial

Martín Di Felice

A man accused of opening fire on two California Highway Patrol officers and a Border Patrol agent in Indio nearly six years ago must stand trial on attempted murder charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Samuel Carrillo Ortiz Jr., 44, of Indio, is accused of firing on the officers on Nov. 26, 2012 at the behest of David Hurtado, 40.

Hurtado was pulled over by the officers at the corner of Cabazon Road and Avenue 48 in Indio, and police say he was seen making phone calls during the traffic stop, allegedly to Ortiz, after which a barrage of gunshots was aimed at the officers from another vehicle at the intersection, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant.

None of the officers were struck by the gunfire.

Investigators have since discovered that the phone calls Hurtado made went to Ortiz’s phone, which was tracked from a different part of Indio to a location within 138 meters of the shooting scene, according to the affidavit.

Ortiz, who’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail, will return to court Dec. 5 for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment.

Hurtado was sentenced to eight years and eight months in state prison for arranging the shooting. While the actual shooter remained at large, Hurtado pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count each of assault with a semiautomatic rifle on a peace officer, assault with a firearm on a peace officer and discharging a firearm. Three counts of attempted murder on a peace officer were dismissed.

Hurtado has since been charged by federal authorities for alleged possession of methamphetamine, heroin and firearms, which were found in a parked car outside a Palm Springs vacation rental property on Aug. 29, 2017.

Federal authorities took custody of Hurtado in September. He faces a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment, if convicted on all counts.

Ortiz also charged in an apparently unrelated murder case that occurred just three days after the officer-involved shooting.

Ortiz and Hector Castaneda, 29, are accused in the killing of Joel Lerma, 35, whose body was found alongside Avenue 44, west of Dillon Road, about 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2012.

Sheriff’s investigators allege that just prior to his death, Lerma was in a car with Ortiz, who was driving, and Castaneda, who was in the backseat. During the drive, Ortiz allegedly signaled for Castaneda to shoot Lerma multiple times through the front passenger seat, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant. Ortiz then allegedly pulled over, tossed Lerma out of the car and shot him one more time before running him over with the car and driving off. The men allegedly torched the car elsewhere.