SAN FRANCISCO – Rodney Vincent Ortiz and Vincent Rudy Ortiz (collectively, the defendants) pleaded guilty today in federal court today for their respective roles in the March 21, 2015, drug related shooting and murder on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in Humboldt County, Calif., announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The guilty pleas were accepted by the Honorable Richard Seeborg, U.S. District Judge.
According to the plea agreement, the defendants committed the shooting and murder following a dispute over a drug transaction that took place a week earlier. Vincent Ortiz, 27, of Willow Creek, Calif., admits he sold what was supposed to be a pound of marijuana to Victim 1, a resident and member of the reservation.
When Victim 1 complained that the amount of marijuana was less than a pound, Vincent eventually traveled with his father, Rodney Ortiz, 54, to Victim 1’s residence to resolve the dispute. Rodney Ortiz admits he brought a loaded firearm to the residence; Vincent Ortiz admits he knew Rodney Ortiz brought the loaded firearm and that it was foreseeable his father would use the weapon to shoot Victim 1.
When the defendants arrived at the residence, they encountered a group of people inside. An argument ensued between Victim 1 and Rodney Ortiz, resulting in Rodney Ortiz shooting Victim 1 and Victim 2 in the head. Rodney Ortiz then shot Victim 3 in the head and shoulder before fleeing the scene with his son, Vincent.
Victim 1 died as a result of the shooting, but Victims 2 and 3 managed to survive. In his plea agreement, Vincent Ortiz admits he aided and abetted Rodney Ortiz’s use, carrying, and discharging of the firearm in furtherance of and in relation to the drug conspiracy and the resulting murder of Victim 1. Vincent Ortiz also acknowledges in his plea agreement that he reasonably could have foreseen the shootings of Victims 2 and 3.
A federal grand jury indicted the defendants on December 17, 2015. In the indictment, the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D), use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2; and use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime causing murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) and 2, obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C) and (k), and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
Pursuant to today’s plea agreement, the defendants both pleaded guilty to one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and one count of use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime causing the murder of Victim 1.
The defendants are next scheduled to appear before Judge Seeborg on May 2, 2017, for a sentencing hearing. The maximum statutory penalties for use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime are life imprisonment, and a mandatory minimum term of 10 years imprisonment, to be imposed consecutive to any other term of imprisonment.
The maximum statutory penalty for use of a firearm causing murder is life imprisonment. Each crime carries a maximum term of 5 years supervised release and a $250,000 fine. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Hopkins is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lance Libatique and Jessica Meegan. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Eureka Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Fortuna High School Threats case update
The Fortuna Police Department has been made aware that the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office will not be bringing charges at this time against the two 15 year-old boys arrested on November 10, 2016 at Fortuna High School.
The Fortuna Police Department has worked tirelessly over the last 6 days investigating this case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of investigation. We have followed every lead and conducted multiple searches in regards to this case. The safety of the students and citizens of Fortuna never wavered and was a paramount concern during this investigation.
Although no charges will be filed at this time, the Fortuna Police Department will continue to follow up on any new information related to this case.
DA Perspective on Potential Threat to Public Safety at Fortuna High
Office of the District Attorney - Maggie Fleming, District Attorney
November 16, 2016
This press release provides current information from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s perspective on the potential threat to public safety at Fortuna High School last Thursday.
Based on statements by students, Fortuna High School staff and the Fortuna Police Department responded immediately to a potential threat and took appropriate action. The ensuing investigation resulted in the FBI and Fortuna Police Department serving search warrants on the homes and computer devices of the two juveniles suspected of plotting an attack at an assembly. To date the investigation has yielded no evidence that either juvenile had the means to create an item that could be a health hazard – one individual possessed approximately 2 grams ([less than] 0.1 ounces) of sulfur, a readily available legal product with a variety of uses. Further, there is insufficient evidence to indicate the two juveniles conspired to commit an attack.
The FBI and Fortuna Police Department continue to investigate the case, but at this point the evidence does not support filing of state criminal charges against the two individuals involved.
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