RICHMOND (BCN) – One of seven defendants in the October 2009 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside Richmond High School’s homecoming dance smirked when the officer who arrested him identified him in court Tuesday.
Richmond police Officer Gary Lewis, the third witness to testify in the preliminary hearing in the case, said he arrested Manuel Ortega, a 20-year-old Richmond resident, as he was fleeing from the school shortly after the victim was discovered unresponsive and partially clothed on the school’s campus.
Richmond police officers Todd Kaiser and Gunnar Googins testified Monday that they were sent to the school at 11:48 p.m. on Oct. 24.
As they drove up 23rd Street, Kaiser said he shined his spotlight into a fenced area on the north side of the school, where he saw a group of people standing around a picnic table. As soon as the group saw the officers, they took off running, Kaiser said.
Kaiser and Googins found the victim bent over a metal rail underneath the picnic table with her dress pulled up and her face pressed into the ground. She was not moving and at first he thought she was dead, but when he shook her, she moaned.
Both officers said she had a puddle of vomit near her head and vomit dripping out of her mouth. They said they could smell alcohol in the area.
Googins said he stayed with the victim while Kaiser ran off to try to catch the people they had seen fleeing.
Meanwhile, Lewis, who was also on patrol that night, received orders to respond to the school and was given a general description of the people the first two officers had seen running away.
Lewis said he didn’t know the details of what had happened, but said, “I could tell something was really wrong by the way Officer Kaiser was speaking (over the police radio).”
All he knew was that an unresponsive female had been found and she appeared to have been sexually assaulted, Lewis said.
As he was driving east on Rheem Avenue approaching 24th Street about a block from the school, he saw a man, later identified as Ortega, run in front of his patrol car, he said.
Lewis made a U-turn and passed the spot again. When he turned off his lights, he saw the Ortega come out from behind a vehicle and pulled up next to him.
As Lewis was notifying dispatch that he was contacting a potential suspect, the man took off running, Lewis said.
Lewis got out of his car and chased him down. He caught up to him about 30 yards away.
“I grabbed him by the right shoulder and he immediately spun around and just started flailing his arms, throwing punches left and right,” Lewis said.
Lewis, who is 6 feet 9 inches tall, was able to hold Ortega at arm’s length. He said he called for backup but was able to overpower Ortega and handcuff him before additional officers arrived.
During his arrest, Ortega allegedly said, “I didn’t do shit wrong,” and said the victim, whom he later referred to by her first name, had wanted him to have sex with her, according to Lewis’ testimony.
After Lewis handcuffed Ortega, he walked him over to a lawn near his patrol car and sat him down, Lewis said.
Ortega appeared to be intoxicated and allegedly continued to shout statements and to threaten the officer. At one point, he allegedly said he had a knife and was going to stab all the officers, Lewis said.
At various points, Ortega also allegedly tried to bite, kick and head-butt Lewis, Lewis said.
He was so combative, that the officers put him in a wrap device to restrain him while they brought him back to the station, Lewis said. He said the wrap, made of nylon and leather, is tightened around a person’s legs to immobilize them. It can also be attached to the person’s handcuffs to prevent their arms from moving.
Ortega was the only suspect arrested that night.
The other defendants in the case are San Pablo residents Cody
Smith, 16, and Ari Morales, 17; Pinole resident Marcelles Peter, 18; and Richmond residents John Crane Jr., 43, Jose Montano, 19, and Elvis Torrentes, 22.
The three suspects who were juveniles at the time of the crime—Smith, Morales and Peter—have been charged as adults.
Testimony in the case is scheduled to continue Tuesdau afternoon in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.
(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)