Defense and Accused’s Family Question Gang Narrative in Murder Trial

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By JOJO KOFMAN

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A murder trial continued Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court for Thomas Ortiz, who allegedly murdered a man outside of a liquor store in the Mission District in 2017.

Deputy District Attorney Dane Reinstedt argued the homicide was a gang-related attack that served as vengeance for a previous killing, suggesting Ortiz is a gang member. 

However, Deputy Public Defender Ali Corea-Levy contested the gang allegations, and argued the shooting was an act of self-defense. 

He stated, based on surveillance footage of the shooting, a bottle struck Ortiz in the face a second before he shot the victim, noting, Ortiz held his head as if it was injured as he ran from the scene.

The PD began Monday’s proceedings by stating that multiple officers “were unable to recognize the victim in relation to a specific gang, which is unusual.” 

“Hey, I think this is a Norteño, army street gang related…is the foundation of the officers’ gang evidence which sergeants then draw conclusions from,” said PD Corea-Levy.

The judge clarified, “the original proffer is that the defendant and victim are associated with various gangs, not that they’re full-fledged members.” 

Ortiz family told this reporter in an interview a different side to the story. 

They explained Ortiz went to the liquor store on New Year’s Eve to grab a few thing to have a fun evening with his friends. They stated that while Ortiz was in the store, the victim of this homicide was outside with a group of people, one of the people being Alvaro Reina Cordero.

Ortiz’ family said Cordero was, “a notorious criminal who was indicted on racketeering and murders,” including chopping off someone’s head.

Ortiz, his family added, left the liquor store because he saw his acquaintance about to be attacked. But, outside the liquor store, Ortiz was hit by a bottle right before he shot the victim. Ortiz’ family argued the victim, or others in the group had a gun, noting that his son knew that.

Strongly suggesting their son acted in self-defense, Ortiz’ family said, “If he (Ortiz) wanted to murder him (the victim), he wouldn’t have shot him just once…How is he (Ortiz) gonna be involved in a gang if he doesn’t even have a criminal record. Officers have even admitted they don’t have a list of members for the Army Street Gang.”

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