LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles police officer was charged Thursday for shooting and wounding an unarmed, elderly motorist in a disagreement over a traffic ticket.
The case is the first criminal filing since the district attorney’s office reactivated its mandatory review of police shootings in response to the Rampart corruption scandal.
The district attorney’s “rollout program” began in 1979 to ensure unbiased investigations of officer-involved shootings throughout Los Angeles County.
The program was eliminated in September 1995 because of budget cutbacks, and reactivated in February.
“This indictment makes it very clear that we are not going to tolerate criminal misconduct by police officers,” said District Attorney Gil Garcetti. “And when there is sufficient evidence, we are going to aggressively prosecute.”
Officer Ronald Orosco, 30, of the Police Department’s 77th Street station, pleaded innocent to charges of assault with a deadly weapon and firing into an occupied vehicle. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Motorist Charles Beatty, 66, was shot in the back in the June 14 traffic stop.
Orosco and his partner, Officer Gorgonio Medina, were on patrol when they pulled Beatty over for allegedly crossing the yellow line.
Beatty protested the citation, said Deputy District Attorney Hector Guzman.
“There was a heated argument between Mr. Beatty and the officers. He was saying it wasn’t a good stop and that he’d see them in court,” Guzman said.
Guzman was sent to the scene immediately after the shooting as part of the district attorney’s reactivated “rollout program.”
Beatty was driving away after getting the ticket when Orosco shot at him four times, hitting Beatty once in the back.
Medina never fired his weapon. According to prosecutor Guzman, Medina said Beatty “never raised his hand and never moved toward the officers,” and that the situation had de-escalated before Beatty was shot.
William J. Hadden, Orosco’s defense attorney, declined to comment.
Bail was set at $100,000 for Orosco, who has been with LAPD since 1996.
A pretrial hearing is set for Dec. 4.
Orosco is the second Los Angeles police officer facing charges for an on-duty shooting. Officer Nino Durden, a key figure in the Rampart corruption scandal, has been charged with attempted murder for a 1996 shooting.
The victim in that case allegedly was framed for attacking police and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
The last on-duty shooting that resulted in charges against an LAPD officer was in 1992, but the case was later dismissed.