Judge tosses out police claims in Montebello arrest

Thursday, December 21, 2017
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Video shows Montebello police arresting George Ortiz in 2016.

MONTEBELLO (KABC) -- A Montebello man has claimed for more than a year that he was injured by overzealous Montebello police officers who wrongly accused him of being drunk, resisting arrest and interfering with their investigation.

George Ortiz says he plans to sue Montebello after a Superior Court judge found that officers had no legal grounds to arrest Ortiz.

Judge Henry Barela made a rare move, throwing out the case in the middle of testimony.

"It has never happened to me before," said Ortiz' public defender Joe Valeriano. "But then again I have never had a case this weak go to trial."

Police video showed officers trying to load Ortiz in the patrol car. Ortiz, who had weakness from a prior stroke and recent shoulder surgery, wailed in pain.

"It messed me over. I get nightmares. Can't sleep at night. I hear sirens I get scared," Ortiz says today.

Montebello Police Department rejects any notion that the officers acted improperly.

"The officers did know what they were doing. They did know the law. The DA could have rejected the case if there were insufficient grounds," said Lt. Mike Flores.

The confrontation started after Ortiz called 911 to report a vehicle abandoned near his home. The judge noted Ortiz didn't sound drunk in the recording.

Two officers testified their attention shifted from the car to Ortiz when he flashed a cell phone and said he was going to put them on Facebook. Moments later they say he seemed drunk and fell.

Not true, says Ortiz' lawyer.

"No they tackled him, " Valeriano said.

Ortiz had to leave his position at a nonprofit where he worked with Down Syndrome clients because of the criminal case against him.

"That hurt a lot because I really miss those kids a lot. And they miss me too," he said.

Many questions remain.

"I don't know why officers attacked Mr. Ortiz. It is a mystery to me," Valeriano said.

It had been Ortiz' word against eight officers. He was urged by the prosecutor repeatedly to take a plea. He refused and urges others in his position to do the same.

"Take it to the jury," Oritz said. "Let your story come out."