PENFIELD, N.Y — A 22-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department tragically died on Saturday night after a car crash in Penfield.

We’re told 52-year-old Officer Manuel Ortiz crashed his car on Empire Boulevard around 7 p.m.  Ortiz’s car was found in the ravine by Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies.

According to witnesses, Officer Ortiz drifted off the road and drove through a wood line before crashing in the ravine.  Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said bystanders tried to perform first aid on Officer Ortiz before he died.

Multiple sources tell Law Enforcement Today that Officer Ortiz was on the way to the hospital with a gunshot wound.  We’re told he had tried to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.  The department has not confirmed this.  We are also told that police are not searching for a suspect.

Investigators said that Officer Ortiz was driving into work when the crash occurred.

He worked in the Community Affairs Bureau as a crime prevention officer.

“It’s a very trying time when you lose an officer, whether it’s on or off duty,” said Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary. 

He said now it’s about coming together in support.

“We’re going to make sure our officers are in the proper mind, if anybody can be in a proper mind after losing a loved one. We’re a family. We’re a family. And tonight we lost a family member, and we’re going to make sure the rest of the family is taken care of. You know, right now we’re all grieving.”

When the chief was asked how you deal with it, he said it’s baby steps.

“You deal with it minute by minute. As days come along, you look out for one another and you just keep an eye on one another. It’s about being there for our officers, and that’s what I’m about to do right now.”

He said it will take time to work through the emotions.

“This is something that they’re going to have to process, and we try to encourage them through that process of healing when they see something like this,” said Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter. “A couple of those deputies knew Manny, so this is very difficult.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren shared her thoughts from the City of Rochester’s Facebook page:

“The passing of Officer Manuel ‘Manny’ Ortiz is a tragedy and a great loss for our City. Officer Ortiz was not only devoted to his career of service, but to his wife and children as well. 

Emerson wrote that ‘The purpose of life …. is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. It is not the length of life, but the depth that matters.’ There is no doubt that Manny Ortiz lived well, and served honorably and with compassion during his 22 years as an Officer in the Rochester Police Department.

My sincere condolences go out to his wife and family, as well as, his brothers and sisters in uniform. I ask that all of Rochester join me in praying for the Ortiz family and all those that loved Officer Ortiz.”

Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott did the same.

“The City Council extends our sincere condolences to the family of Officer Ortiz, as well as the men and women of the Rochester Police Department.  This is a tragic loss for our community and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Officer Ortiz’s death.”

Police and deputies are still waiting on a report from the medical examiner to confirm the cause of death.

Numerous sources tell LET that Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott have become the worst nightmare of law enforcement. 

Take, for example, what happened back in October.

Police say the man charged in a ‘brutal’ attack on officer’s life should have been in jail after a judge’s ruling in July. But it never happened.

And because this criminal with a lengthy list of priors wasn’t locked up, prosecutors say he was free to commit a horrific act of violence against a Rochester police officer, repeatedly slashing his face and stabbing him, leaving him for dead.

So why wasn’t Keith Williams behind bars?

ABC 13 began digging into the Rochester man’s past… and what they found was troubling.

keith_williams_attempted_murder_new_york

Keith Williams stands accused of the brutal and nearly fatal assault on a New York police officer. (NBC 10 Screenshot/Adobe Stock)

 

According to court records, Williams was involved in at least four cases within the last year alone. And in one of those instances, a SWAT team had get involved after the 28-year-old barricaded himself inside his New York residence. Police were on the scene to arrest Williams for his alleged connection with a shooting the night before.

When he finally surrendered, Judge Stephen Miller set his cash bail at $15,000 with a $45,000 bond. 

Guess who showed up in court the very next month?

In that case, Williams had been arrested and charged with criminal contempt for violating a protection order on an aggravated family offense charge from 2018.

Judge Miller then sentenced Williams to eight months behind bars. But instead of taking Williams from the court room and putting him in a cell… somehow he went free.

And even after the sentence was handed down, Williams didn’t end up in jail. Instead, he remained free, for reasons unknown. And because of that mistake, prosecutors are now saying that the failure of the system resulted in the  near-death of a beloved officer.

ABC 13 said that repeated attempts to reach the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office for comment about the failed sentence were unsuccessful. 

Williams appeared in court on Tuesday, facing an overwhelming sea of blue as more than 200 police officers showed up to support their wounded brother.

He entered a plea of not guilty.

According to the police report, Williams allegedly punched Wright in the face, then used an 8-inch blade to repeatedly slash and stab the officer “multiple times upon his face, left eye and lower body, causing serious physical injuries which were deemed to be life threatening.”

Reports said that it if wasn’t for the immediate help of a good Samaritan… Officer Wright might not have made it. 

Lydell Weatherspoon was visiting friends just a couple houses away where Officer Wright was attacked when responding to a call.  He didn’t hesitate to respond when he heard the officer screaming for help.

“When I got a little closer to the house I could hear someone inside yelling for help,” said Lydell Weatherspoon.

Chief La’Ron Singletary said Officer Denny Wright had responded to a call on Peck Street at 12:30 p.m.  The call came in for a reported domestic incident, and Officer Wright responded alone.

When he went into the home, he found Williams hiding under a bed. Family members and the officer tried to talk him out from hiding. Williams then allegedly tried to run out of the home.

When Wright tried to stop him, police say the suspect punched him and then began stabbing him.

Police say that Officer Wright pulled out his gun and fired once.  He missed the suspect, who then continued to stab him.

“Once I got in the officer said ‘help,’” said Weatherspoon. “I immediately took a step toward the officer and the guy on the ground. He had him pinned down and I called out. Listen. Stop moving. Not to the officer but the guy calming him down. He tried to struggle a little bit. Once he heard my voice he stopped and just laid there.”

According to Weatherspoon, there was blood everywhere… but he knew he had to keep calm if he was going to be able to help.

“That’s when I could see the officer in real distress, ” said Weatherspoon. “I was on the phone with dispatch and I immediately told them officer down. Officer needs assistance. He needs help real bad.”

Although Wright was badly injured, he knew he had to keep the suspect pinned down so he didn’t hurt anyone else.

“He had one knee in him and his two hands holding him down pinned against the sofa,” said Weatherspoon. “The guy couldn’t get up and do anything. He couldn’t even move. Again that showed remarkable strength from the officer to be able to do that in that moment of his trauma situation. It surprised me.”

 

Weatherspoon said it was because of Wright’s willingness to protect others even while he was injured that he was honored to help the officer.

“That officer showed me a lot of courage,” said Weatherspoon. “I thank God everyday that I did what I did because it’s individuals like him that create individuals like me. Because if he is willing to put his life on the line to serve and protect why can’t we all do it for each other.”

Shortly after, other responding officers arrived and tased the suspect before taking him into custody. The suspect wasn’t hurt.  He was, however, kept in the hospital under evaluation.

“I watched the body camera video and what I witnessed was a vicious and brutal attack on Officer Wright,” Singletary added. “We could easily be standing here talking about another set of circumstances had it not been for the resiliency of Officer Wright, the good Samaritans that intervened and the quick actions of the responding officers.”

According to Singletary, Officer Wright is a 23-year veteran of the force.  He’s worked in the Clinton section his entire career.  He has also trained many of the department’s officers.

“The outpouring of support is a true testament of Denny’s character—a loving and caring officer who did and will always put the safety of others before his own,” family members said in a statement.

But the city wasn’t done making headlines there. 

As Wright struggles to survive, his life forever changed, city leaders are coming under fire.

Loretta Scott sits on the city council in Rochester, New York. After the horrific attack that nearly took the life of an officer, Scott visited his bedside to show her support.

Great, right?

Not exactly. 

keith_williams_attempted_murder_new_york

Keith Williams stands accused of the brutal and nearly fatal assault on a New York police officer. (NBC 10 Screenshot/Adobe Stock)

 

As Officer Dennison Wright lay in his hospital bed, fighting for his life after the brutal attack, Scott took the opportunity to tell reporters that she didn’t take what police officers did for granted.

“It’s very difficult to see someone who, just by the fact of doing their job, was in that position,” she said.

The statements don’t seem so outrageous… until you see how Scott usually acts toward police.

In fact, the general attitude of city leaders and the community toward police is so bad, Bob Lonsberry told WHAM radio that they could be partially to blame for the attack on Wright.

Council President Scott is pushing to pass a little something called the Police Accountability Board.

Its name makes it sound innocent enough. But it’s not what it seems.

 

This PAB group is made up of a panel of civilians called the Police Accountability Board Alliance – and if it’s passed in a referendum vote in November, it would put the power to discipline local officers into the hands of anti-police ‘activists’.

In a situation where an officer would be facing an investigation or alleged misconduct, Scott’s board of activists would get the final say about whether they were to be punished.

Not the chief of police. Not the mayor. 

A panel of individuals who routinely have argued that the cops are the enemy of the community.

Any police officer – regardless of wrongdoing – knows that complaints against cops come in all the time. Whether it’s an attempt to discredit an officer, get a handout from the city or something else, the vast number of complaints are normally unfounded. 

We checked out the PAB’s website.

“The proposed PAB would be a civilian-led oversight board,” the site reads. “The Chief of Police cannot be expected to investigate, evaluate, and discipline police officers. This is a clear conflict of interest.”

 

And how much do they want to fund the project?

Oh… just a million dollars, even though the city is reportedly facing a $30 million budget deficit. 

Their plan consists of five ‘pillars’.

  • An independent agency of city government, separate from RPD
  • The power to independently investigate complaints of police misconduct
  • Subpoena power to compel the production of evidence and witnesses
  • Disciplinary power
  • The power to review and evaluate RPD patterns, practices, policies and procedures to recommend systemic changes and to prevent misconduct from happening in the first place.

While there’s an open application for joining the Police Accountability Board Alliance, let’s look at some examples of people in the community that could be in charge of deciding an officer’s fate.

Lonsberry said that just days before Wright was viciously attacked and left for dead, reverend and community activist Lewis Stewart appeared on the evening news, talking about the “racist culture of the police.”

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His statements condemned the Rochester department for their dealings with a 13-year-old who, at the instruction of his mother, refused to comply with officers and continued to resist and fight back, making the officers look like the bad guys when they controlled the situation. The boy was hailed as a victim and the mother’s face was shown covered in tears, demonizing the cops.

Then just days later, Keith Williams allegedly attacked Officer Wright, nearly ending his life.

Lonsberry said the display of anti-police rhetoric can’t be ignored any longer.

“When neighbors’ Facebook Live broadcasts from outside a scene bloodied with an officer’s gore contain such commentary as, “I hope they killed this mother f—er’s ass. I hope it’s a straight head shot,” you’ve got to acknowledge that there is a problem,” their story read. “And that problem is an open hatred of the police which is dressed up as civil-rights activism.”

Reports say that police in the Rochester area have recently had an increasingly difficult time with getting suspects to comply with lawful commands. News stories have shown officers being confronted by people who refuses to obey orders. 

Lonsberry said that “those people – instead of being accurately described as rude or disrespectful – are held up as heroes or victims.”

We train our officers. Shouldn’t we train our communities on how to work with the police?

If these are the people playing Monday morning quarterback and deciding our officers’ future, we’re all in trouble.

 

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