Deputy Sheriff JUAN LEO ORTIZ San Miguel County Sheriff's Department End of Watch: Sunday September 17, 1978 Cause of Death: Gunfire
On August 12, 1978, Deputy Juan Ortiz patrolled in the Santa Fe National Forest west of Las Vegas, New Mexico. He was looking for four horsemen who'd been reported harassing campers and vandalizing campgrounds. He encountered a subject named Frank Trujillo who pointed a .22 caliber rifle at the officer. Ortiz drew his gun and fired, killing Trujillo.
The District Attorney initially filed a murder charge against Ortiz but on September 1, 1978, District Court Judge Joe Angel dismissed the charge on the ground that the deputy acted in self-defense.
On Sunday afternoon, September 18, at about 5:00 o'clock, Juan Ortiz and his family worked in a field across the road from their home at Rociada, about 27 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They were busy stacking hay. Two shots were fired and Juan Ortiz fell to the ground, shot in the chest and mortally wounded.
A search soon began for the assassin or assassins. Three sets of horse tracks and two spent .300 Savage rifle cartridges were found about 200 yards away. The tracks led north, into the National Forest and toward the village of Tres Ritos. But even with the use of a State Police helicopter, the riders were not captured. No one was ever prosecuted for killing Deputy Juan Ortiz.
Deputy Ortiz, who had been a deputy for only five months, had announced his intention to leave the sheriff's department. His resignation would have been effective on Monday, September 18, the day after he died.
Albuquerque Journal, September 18, 19, 21, & 22, 1978
National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Washington, D. C.
Santa Fe New Mexican, September 19, 1978 & September 6, 1979
Courtesy of Don Bullis (email@example.com); excerpted from
"New Mexico's Finest: Peace Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, 1847-2010"
with permission from Rio Grande Books, www.nmsantos.com