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DA Rules Officers Justified in June Shooting in Santa Maria

Law enforcement officers were acting in self-defense and therefore justified in fatally shooting a prison parolee and known gang member in Santa Maria in June, according to a ruling Wednesday by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

Jose Luis Ortega, 22, was shot and killed in an incident that began about 7 a.m. on June 28, as officers of the Santa Maria Police Department, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and California State Parole attempted to serve a drug- and gang-related search warrant on Ortega at his residence in the 300 block of West Sunset Avenue, according to Dudley’s report.

Ortega left his residence and got into the front passenger seat of a red Acura, at which time officers began following the car to make a traffic stop.

As the vehicle approached North Broadway, Ortega ran from the car, pulling a .38-caliber handgun from his waistband and turning the weapon toward officers, according to the report.

Ortega was hit by three rounds and died at the scene near Bunny Avenue and Lincoln Street, in the northwest section of the city.

Two other occupants in the vehicle — Jose Rangel Rincon, 34, and Crystal Georgia Marquez, 34, both of Santa Maria — were arrested on misdemeanor charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The Sheriff’s Department handled both the criminal investigation and the review of the officer-involved shooting.

Dudley’s detailed report shows witness statements from seven officers, two of whom shot rounds at Ortega. Both shooting officers have more than 10 years of experience as peace officers, according to the report.

She said the names of all officers and deputies involved were not released Wednesday for safety reasons.

“At this time, it is too dangerous for the safety of those individuals to release their names because there have been documented threats to retaliate against these law enforcement officers,” Dudley wrote in the report.

Their identities might be released at a later time if Dudley determines the safety risk no longer exists, she wrote.
 
The district attorney’s report also includes the results of the search of Ortega’s residence, which turned up methamphetamine smoking pipes, drug packaging tear-offs, a notebook and pad with gang writings, and a “Hoppe’s” firearm cleaning kit.

She wrote that Ortega was on parole for one felony count of domestic violence and one felony count of participation in a street gang — both occurring in 2010.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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