Two volunteers with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office have been suspended for associating with a suspect who allegedly impersonated a law enforcement officer and beat up a man.
The episode unfolded Saturday night at a home on East 29th Avenue. Eric J. Ortiz, 22, is accused of breaking into a detached garage at the home and assaulting a man over a dispute. He allegedly claimed to be a cop assigned to the gang enforcement task force.
A uniformed volunteer with Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort watched the beating without intervening or calling police, witnesses say. The volunteer, who wasn’t identified in court documents, wore a uniform containing a sheriff’s emblem.
The alleged assault only stopped when residents in the home heard the beating and retaliated. The victim’s brother-in-law pulled a gun on Ortiz and threatened to shoot if he didn’t stop, court records say.
Rick Scott, director of SCOPE, confirmed that two volunteers have been suspended. Ortiz has never been a SCOPE volunteer.
SCOPE is a nonprofit group that provides help with traffic control, fingerprinting and other duties. The volunteers are not armed.
The victim, Jesse Montoya, still had a large bump on the back of his head and several bruises on his body Monday afternoon.
Montoya’s sister, Laura Parker, lives at the home and said one of the volunteers suspended is her cousin, who was at the home and watched the beating.
She said the second suspended volunteer, whom she knows, has portrayed herself to be beating suspect Ortiz’s wife.
Parker said that Ortiz and the female volunteer have on multiple occasions portrayed themselves to be law enforcement officers. She said the two suspended volunteers regularly drive a marked sheriff’s SCOPE car, which includes emergency lights similar to those on actual patrol cars, when they are not on duty.
Scott said he didn’t have details about the incident, but SCOPE volunteers are trained not to portray themselves as law enforcement officers. Some volunteers have been given retired sheriff’s deputy cars marked SCOPE for their use.
Police found a wallet on Ortiz that had a “shiny, silver round emblem” on it, records say.
Ortiz remained in the Spokane County jail Monday night. He faces first-degree burglary and second-degree impersonation charges.