Authorities have arrested a man suspected of killing Donald Ortiz, a member of the Mexican mafia who was gunned down on a street in Chino last year, decades after other members of the prison-based organization had decided he should be killed.
Cesar Palomino, 49, was taken into custody Friday in Las Vegas, where he lives, and is being held in a city jail as San Bernardino County authorities seek to extradite him, according to police in chinos.
Ortiz was inducted into the Mexican Mafia in the 1980s, joining a group of approximately 140 men who control much of the drug trade in the California prison system and dominate nearly all Latino street gangs in Southland. But in 1995, Ortiz angered other members of the organization, who plotted to kill him during a meeting in a motel room secretly taped by authorities.
For the next quarter century, Ortiz escaped several assassination attempts, refusing calls from law enforcement to renounce his allegiance to an organization that intended to kill him.
His past apparently caught up with him on a sidewalk in Chino, a town of about 90,000 in western San Bernardino County. On the afternoon of November 19, a man in a blue suit jacket approached Ortiz, exchanged a few words with him, and then shot him in the head. Ortiz was 59 years old.
His killer escaped through an apartment complex, eluding a net of police that locked down several city blocks for hours.
In a statement, Chino police did not explain why they believe Palomino killed Ortiz, saying only that he was identified as a suspect after a “long and complex investigation.” They also didn’t reveal a motive other than saying the murder was “gang-related.” Palomino is a member of a Southern California gang, according to Chino police. They did not specify which one.
The detective investigating the case declined to comment.
At the time of his death, Ortiz, nicknamed “Little Man”, had spent most of his life in jails, jails and juvenile halls. At age 13, he joined a local gang, the Whittier Varrio Locos, and racked up a rap sheet as an underage that included stealing a man’s eight-track tape recorder, taking the purse of a a woman at knifepoint and the staff threatening reform. school, according to probation records.
At age 23, while being held in Los Angeles County Jail for possession of a firearm, two Mexican mob members handed Ortiz a knife stolen from the staff lunchroom and told him to kill another Mafia member suspected of embezzling money from drug sales. , according to a former member and records reviewed by The Times.
Shortly after the man was stabbed to death in June 1986, Ortiz was “crafted” or inducted into the Mexican Mafia, the former member said. But later it was rumored that Ortiz, instead of carrying out the murder himself, had another inmate, also nicknamed “Little Man”, do it, the former member said.
The man was charged with the murder, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Ortiz pleaded guilty to merely being an accomplice and received two years, according to court records.
In 1995, a group of Mexican mob members decided that Ortiz should die for “disrespecting” the organization, according to a recording of the meeting in the motel room. The dozen Mexican mob members who had gathered hatched a plan to have an associate of the gang summon Ortiz to court, where he would be stabbed to death in a holding cell.
FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies arrested the architects of the plot before he was executed. Although most of them were convicted of racketeering, murder, and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison, Ortiz’s fortunes remained shaky. Two years later, while back in custody after violating his parole, Ortiz was beaten and stabbed in the exercise yard of Chino State Prison. Authorities suspected that a member of the Mexican mafia had ordered the attack.
He nevertheless refused to “debrief” or quit the Mexican mafia and give up his secrets to law enforcement, officials said.
In 2001, Ortiz stole a car that had been left unlocked in a Whittier alley as part of a police sting operation.
Sentenced at trial, a prosecutor urged the judge to send Ortiz to jail for as long as the law allowed. Ortiz, she wrote in a sentencing note, was the “prime suspect” in three murders that went unsolved because witnesses did not cooperate: a man whose body was found in Turnbull Canyon in 1982, whose grandmother insisted Ortiz was the killer; Ronnie “Goofy” Villasenor, who once had a child with Ortiz’s girlfriend, shot by a hooded gunman in 1993; and Manuel Osuna, a Mexican mafia associate, shot in Whittier in 1994.
Ortiz’s attorney called the prosecutor’s memo a “character assassination.”
Ortiz was sentenced to 13 years in prison, plus six more for possession of weapons while in prison. Released in 2019, he soon broke the law again, getting arrested in Chino that year along with two of his girlfriend’s sons for stealing a handgun from a man. Convicted of robbery, Ortiz was sentenced to one year and four months in prison.
Released for a final time in January 2021, Ortiz listed his address as a second-floor apartment in the 5100 block of Philadelphia Street when he was arrested again for being drunk in public.
It was on this block that Ortiz was killed last November.
Los Angeles Times