E.C. murder witness gunned down
Friday, September 28, 2007 12:46 AM CDT
HAMMOND | A key witness in this summer's murder trial
of a self-described street gang member was himself
gunned down on Wednesday night.
Luis Joel Ortiz, 22, was shot once in the upper right
chest at 11:30 p.m. outside his apartment in the 1200
block of 150th Street and declared dead at St.
Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers an hour later.
Neighbors described Ortiz as a "nice guy" who had
lived in the one-story building on the southeast
corner of Columbia Avenue since July.
Residents said Ortiz regularly drank beer with other
young men in his small apartment, but late Wednesday
there was a loud argument, which ended with a man
shouting, "No, no," followed by three gunshots.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said there were no
suspects or a motive for the killing as of Thursday
Ortiz was called to Crown Point for testimony in the
July murder trial of Steven Ray Santana, who was
charged with firing multiple shots into a 15-year-old
boy riding his bicycle a block south of East Chicago
Central High School on the city's north side in the
summer of 2006.
He told jurors that he saw Santana, then 20 years old,
creep out from between parked cars in the 4200 block
of Northcote Avenue with a handgun and fire several
shots into the back of Rudolf Swisher as the boy rode
Santana testified that he was a member of the Imperial
Gangsters organization, and that he had been
threatened by Ortiz, who he said was a member of the
Latin Kings, a rival gang.
Santana denied shooting Swisher, an honor student who
was not known to belong to any street gang, but the
jury thought otherwise and found him guilty of murder,
for which he was sentenced to 62 years in prison.
Hammond detectives Lt. Zeke Hinojosa and Sgt. Daniel
Small are investigating the killing of Ortiz, and can
be reached at (219) 852-2906.
Homicide trial witness dies in shooting outside his
September 28, 2007
HAMMOND -- A pivotal witness in a recent homicide case
has become the victim of a homicide himself.
Luis Ortiz, 22, was gunned down outside his home in
the 1200 block of 150th Street at 11:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Hammond police Chief Brian Miller said.
Ortiz was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. Thursday at
Saint Margaret Mercy hospital in Hammond, a spokesman
for the Lake County Coroner's Office said.
Miller said several shots were fired in the
neighborhood when Ortiz was shot. Ortiz died of a
single gunshot wound to the chest.
Miller said there were no witnesses or suspects. He
wouldn't comment on a possible motive.
Ortiz's family friend and legal adviser, John
Cantrell, suspects it was retaliation.
Ortiz was a pivotal witness in the Rudolf August
Swisher murder trial, having pointed out Steven Ray
Santana, 21, as Swisher's killer.
Cantrell said Santana, an East Chicago resident and
alleged Imperial Gangster, likely shot and killed
Swisher in June 2006 thinking he was shooting Ortiz.
Santana was sentenced on Aug. 29 to 62 years in
prison, three years shy of the maximum prison sentence
Ortiz was having his own legal troubles. Following his
testimony, he was sentenced to two year's probation
for criminal recklessness. The judge told him he'd
consider reducing the felony charges if he paid
restitution and was successful on probation.
Cantrell said Ortiz didn't testify at the Swisher
trial to get a deal, but was likely granted one
anyway. Swisher was Ortiz's friend, Cantrell said, and
Ortiz wanted to do his part to get Santana sentenced.
Cantrell said Ortiz was cleaning up his life. He moved
to a new apartment in Hammond, was about to start
classes at Purdue University Calumet, and had gotten a
new job doing industrial washing at the steel mills.
"He made some mistakes in the past," Cantrell said.
"But I truly believe he put that lifestyle behind him,
had grown up a lot and was ready to move on with his
life. It's unfortunate it was cut short."