2012 Coachella murder suspect charged

Suspect already in jail for shooting at officers

INDIO, Calif. - A man accused of firing on two California Highway Patrol officers and a Border Patrol agent in 2012 has since been charged with a deadly shooting that occurred three days later in Coachella, court documents show.

Samuel Carrillo Ortiz Jr., 43, is accused, along with Hector Castaneda, 28, in the killing of Joel Lerma, whose body was found alongside Avenue 44, west of Dillon Road, about 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2012.

Ortiz is currently in custody on attempted murder charges for allegedly firing on the officers. No officer was struck by the gunfire. Castaneda has been incarcerated in Calipatria State Prison since 2014 for an unrelated, undisclosed offense. Though the cause of Lerma's death was determined
to be multiple gunshots, investigators said it appeared he had also been run over by a vehicle, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant.

Sheriff's investigators allege that just prior to his death, Lerma was in a car with Ortiz, who was driving, and Castaneda, who was in the backseat. During the drive, Ortiz allegedly signaled for Castaneda to shoot Lerma multiple times through the front passenger seat. Ortiz then allegedly 
pulled over, tossed Lerma out of the car and shot him one more time before running him over with the car and driving off. The men allegedly torched the car elsewhere.

A motive for the shooting has not been disclosed.   

Murder charges were filed against the men last week. Castaneda is scheduled to be transported from Calipatria and arraigned along with Ortiz next Tuesday in Indio. Ortiz also will appear that day for a felony settlement conference in the officer shooting case.

Ortiz was charged in February with three counts of attempted murder for allegedly firing on the officers after they pulled over 39-year-old David Hurtado at the corner of Cabazon Road and Avenue 48 in Indio.   

Hurtado was seen making phone calls during the traffic stop, allegedly to Ortiz, after which a barrage of gunshots was aimed at the officers from another vehicle at the intersection, according to the declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant.

Hurtado was sentenced to eight years and eight months in state prison for arranging the shooting. He pleaded guilty in 2015 -- while the actual shooter remained at large -- to one count each of assault with a semiautomatic rifle on a peace officer, assault with a firearm on a peace officer and 
discharging a firearm. Three counts of attempted murder on a peace officer were dismissed.

The investigation revealed that the phone calls Hurtado made went to Ortiz's phone, which was tracked from a different part of Indio to a location within 138 meters of the shooting scene after the calls were made, according to the declaration.

Hurtado was released from prison earlier this year, but was arrested in August along with two women for allegedly taking part in a Palm Springs rental fraud scheme. Hurtado was charged with possession of controlled substances for sale and allegations of owning firearms after police found a stolen, loaded .40 caliber handgun, unregistered AR-15 .223 caliber semi-automatic assault rifle, loaded high-capacity AR-15 rifle magazine, ammunition, just under a pound of methamphetamine, 11 grams of heroin and "multiple items of identity theft'' inside a parked car he was in.

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