On Friday, a judge in Los Angeles County did something very unusual: he turned down a negotiated plea deal that would have kept a sheriff’s officer out of jail on assault charges related to the shooting death of a suicidal man outside his family’s East L.A. home in 2021.
Judge Michael Pastor turned down the deal, which called for Deputy Remin Pineda to get probation and give up his right to be a police officer in California. He did this after hearing the family of 34-year-old David Ordaz Jr., who was killed by four deputies in March 2021 while holding a knife and pleading with them to kill him, make an emotional case.
“I am furious that our system allows Pineda to walk around like nothing happened. What about David?” Hilda Pedroza, David’s oldest sister, asked during a series of tearful victim impact statements given in court on Friday. “David doesn’t get to walk like he does. If the tables were turned, David would be put in jail in a second.”
Last year, Pineda was charged with assault with a firearm and assault while acting in a public official capacity. Prosecutors decided they didn’t have enough proof to charge two other officers with shooting Ordaz Jr.
They said a third deputy shot him in legal self-defense. But L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Guy Shirley said Pineda used too much force. Shirley said the deputy kept shooting even after Ordaz Jr. was on the ground and fired at least one round after he put down the knife.
Steven Alvarado, Pineda’s lawyer, refused to say anything after the meeting. The Sheriff’s Department did not answer when asked about the other agents who were involved in Ordaz Jr.’s death. Pineda has to go back to court in December.
For the district attorney’s office, Venusse Navid said,“We continue to believe that the charges are substantiated by the evidence and are prepared to move forward with a preliminary hearing and trial,” said Venusse Navid, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. “Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment as the matter is pending litigation.”
Pedroza said that the family wasn’t consulted by the DA’s office before making a deal with Pineda, and she was only told about the terms two weeks ago. Most of her family thought Friday’s meeting was just for show, but they wanted the judge and prosecutors to know how much they hurt.
“I thought it’s not going to make a difference. There’s no point. They already made up their minds,” Pedroza said outside the courthouse”“I was really shocked. I did not think this was going to be possible. The first words out of my mouth were ‘Thank God! Thank God!’ ”
After Pastor’s decision, about twenty of Ordaz Jr.’s family and friends were seen crying and hugging in a hallway on the third floor of the downtown building. Many of them were wearing pins with Ordaz Jr.’s face on them.
In March 2021, Ordaz Jr. armed himself with a knife and told his sister he was suicidal at his family’s home. Pineda was one of several deputies who came to a call for help.
Deputies say that when they approached Ordaz Jr., he had a 12-inch kitchen knife in his hand and told them he wanted them to shoot him. Body camera footage from the scene shows this.
“That’s not what we want to do, man,” Pineda said, according to court records.
The video shows that Ordaz Jr. was standing about 10 feet away from the cops, who told him over and over that they didn’t want to hurt him and told him to drop the knife. The video shows that while his family begged him to drop the gun, Ordaz Jr. asked the officers to call a helicopter and a news helicopter.
In the end, cops used beanbag rounds to try to subdue him. When Ordaz Jr. moved forward a few steps, they fired their service weapons at him, killing him with at least a dozen shots. The video shows that the shooting kept going while Ordaz Jr. fell down and his family members screamed.
Pineda kept shooting even after the other officers stopped, while Ordaz Jr. “continued to lie on the ground on the right side of his body,” according to a 13-page memo that explains how the case was filed by the district attorney’s office.
Even though another officer told Pineda to stop, he fired another shot while Ordaz Jr. was on the ground and without a gun. Shirley had said that Pineda had shot eight times.
His death left behind three children. Jasmine Moreno, his partner, said on Friday that he had been depressed and anxious at the time of the killing. A sister of his told 911 that she thought he had also used methamphetamine the day of the killing. Records show that different kinds of drugs were found in his system during an autopsy.
David Ordaz, the victim’s father, said that the event has destroyed his family and made him never trust the police again.
An interpreter helped him ask, “If I have to call the police again, what should I expect? For them to come and help me or for them to come and kill me or my family?”
It’s possible that Pedroza’s brother would still be living today if she hadn’t called the police.
“I know that my error was calling my local sheriff’s station and this will be something I have to live with for the rest of my life. That will be my torment,” she said. “I’m scared to be out in the world. I’m scared to drive and be stopped by deputies. I’m scared to walk on the sidewalk where David was killed. My heart is broken. I feel like I don’t belong in this world. I have lost my place in it.”