A former Orange County sheriff’s deputy was charged Monday with dousing a mentally ill inmate with scalding water.
Guadalupe Ortiz, 47, was charged with single felony counts of assault or battery by a public officer and battery with serious bodily injury. Ortiz, who was fired on Friday, faces up to four years in prison if convicted at trial.
Ortiz’s attorney, Paul Meyer, said the water was meant to be lukewarm and used as a distraction to help avoid a more violent conflict.
The 19-year veteran deputy was scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 11.
The incident in question occurred April 1 in the jail in Santa Ana, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Another deputy was trying to get the inmate to retract his hands from a hatch door so it could be closed, but when the inmate refused, Ortiz filled a cup of hot water about 12:28 p.m. and poured it on the inmate’s hands, prosecutors alleged. The inmate pulled his hands back in so the hatch could be shut and Ortiz and two other deputies with him left the area, prosecutors said.
During a security check about 7 p.m. the inmate asked for medical attention and he was treated for first- and second-degree burns, prosecutors said.
Meyer called the criminal complaint the result of an “unfortunate misinterpretation.”
He added that his client “splashed part of a cup of water, mixed hot and cold, not steaming, on one forearm of an aggressive inmate to distract him to move his arms so that his cell door could be secured after over an hour standoff.”
Meyer said the water “was too warm and caused primarily first-degree red skin and irritation according to the DA’s own expert. The deputy was trying to use the least force necessary to resolve the standoff without calling for more physical force, which would be dangerous to the inmate and other deputies.
“This deputy has an unblemished record of over 20 years of compassionate and commended service. The DA filing sends the wrong signal to officers who should consider innovative alternatives to physical force. We intend to bring all of the facts to light. This filing is a mistake that a jury will correct.”