Trial To Begin For Man Charged With Shooting At 3 Peace Officers

Trial To Begin For Man Charged With Shooting At 3 Peace Officers

Martín Di Felice

Trial is scheduled to begin Thursday for an Indio man accused of opening fire on two California Highway Patrol officers and a Border Patrol agent nearly seven years ago.

Samuel Carrillo Ortiz Jr., 45, is accused of shooting at the officers on Nov. 26, 2012, at the behest of another man, David Hurtado, who was pulled over by the officers for alleged drunken driving at the corner of Cabazon Road and Avenue 48 in Indio.

Officers say they saw Hurtado making phone calls during the traffic stop, allegedly to Ortiz, who prosecutors say pulled up beside the officers at the intersection and began shooting.

None of the officers were struck by the gunfire.

The investigation revealed 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 after the phone calls were made, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant.

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.

Ortiz is also charged in a murder case that occurred just three days after the officer-involved shooting.

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

According to sheriff’s officials, Lerma was in a car with Ortiz, who was driving, and Castaneda, who was in the back seat. 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.

A motive for the shooting has not been disclosed.

Ortiz’s preliminary hearing in that case was recently rescheduled for Dec. 17.