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‘You wanna get ... shot?’ Body camera video of Salt Lake officer firing gun released

Robert Craig Ortega
Robert Craig Ortega
Salt Lake County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — Body camera video that captured a tense confrontation between a Salt Lake police officer and a man who had a felony warrant out for his arrest was released Friday.

In the video, the officer threatens to shoot and beat the man who doesn't want to be taken into custody. At one point, the man even starts yelling for help and cries out, "Somebody call the cops!"

The officer fired a shot at some point during the confrontation and the man sped away in his car, squealing his tires as he left. No one was injured in the Nov. 3 incident.

Salt Lake police have not released the officer's name, but say he has been with the department for about 3 ½ years.

The officer was in the area of a Chevron gas station near 3300 South and 1100 East, and after checking a license plate, discovered the car's owner had a warrant out for his arrest issued by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for aggravated sexual abuse of a child, police said. The warrant, according to both Salt Lake police and the board of pardons, was issued for violating the conditions of his parole, and not for any new charge.

The officer walked into the Chevron where he confronted Robert Craig Ortega, 28, of Sandy, who was making a purchase at the counter. The first part of the officer's body camera video does not have sound. It was not known Friday what words were exchanged between Ortega and the officer, the tone of that confrontation or if any threats were made. Ortega appears in the video to be questioning what the officer is telling him.

As Ortega leaves the store, audio from the officer's body camera kicks in.

"Sir, I'm not doing anything. No, I'm not doing anything," Ortega is heard saying as he continues to walk away from the officer.

"Do you wanna get tased?" the officer says shortly before taking out his Taser.

Ortega begins to move faster away from the officer who deploys his Taser, which Salt Lake police on Friday said "appeared to have little to no effect."

The video then shows Ortega running away from the officer. He runs to his car and tries to get in through the front passenger door as the officer stands next to the driver's door.

At this point, the officer sounds agitated and begins taunting Ortega.

"Get in your car, (expletive)," the officer says as Ortega ran to his car.

As soon as Ortega gets into the passenger seat, the officer draws his gun and points it at Ortega through the window on the driver's side.

"You wanna get (expletive) shot?" the officer asks him.

"No, man. I don't. Back up please," Ortega responds.

Ortega then is heard pleading with the officer, "Please don't break my car," to which the officer responds, "I'll beat your (expletive) face."

Ortega starts yelling for help, and even yells for someone to call police. He eventually makes his way to the driver's seat and recklessly speeds away. The officer, who is still standing to the side of the car, fires a shot.

The incident unfolded so quickly, however, that not even Salt Lake police officers speaking to the media on Friday knew exactly at what point in the video the shot is fired. There is no loud "popping" noise in the video, but police did confirm a shot was fired. No one was injured and police have not said where the shot ended up.

The video ends with the officer getting into his patrol car and attempting to chase Ortega.

Police have not said what prompted the officer to fire his gun, or if the officer spotted a weapon in Ortega's car.

Unified police, who are conducting the independent review of the officer-involved critical incident, arrested Ortega two days later. Unified Police Sgt. Melody Gray said investigators received a tip that Ortega was staying at a hotel. Officers went there, called him and told him they were outside, and he surrendered without incident, she said.

Court records show Ortega was convicted of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child in 2011 and sentenced to three years to life at the Utah State Prison. As part of a plea deal at the same time, a case in which Ortega was charged with assault on a police officer and failing to stop for police was dismissed.

Ortega's lengthy criminal history also includes theft and drug-related convictions.