Scottsdale statement: Gilbert Ortega incident charging decision update

Gilbert Ortega Incident – Charging Decision – February 2024


Statement from the Scottsdale City Attorney’s Office:

The Scottsdale City Attorney’s Office carefully reviewed evidence in the criminal investigation concerning Gilbert Ortega. This review included cell phone video, surveillance video, the police reports and two different translations of the suspect’s statements (some of which were expressed in the Navajo language). To charge a case, a prosecutor must believe there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction. After this thorough review, the City Attorney's Office determined there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction in this matter, and the investigation has been closed. 

The facts show that the victims were performing cultural dances in the Old Town Scottsdale area with a national film crew present. During their performance, the suspect began mocking them and rudely pantomiming their dance. While disrespectful and crass, his behavior at this point in the video does not constitute the criminal offense of disorderly conduct. 

The cell phone video continues and shows the victims encouraging the suspect to come into the street and face them, which the suspect does. In the ensuing verbal argument, both parties exchanged insults. The victims called the suspect a “hillbilly,” the suspect later calls one of the victims a racial epithet. The statements made in Navajo by the suspect during this exchange were reviewed by both the FBI and a native Navajo speaker working at the City Attorney’s Office. Both agreed the statements were not threats and the City Attorney’s Office concluded they did not support a charge of threatening and intimidating.  

The victim further asked the City Attorney’s Office to consider an assault charge in this case. The City Attorney’s Office did consider an assault charge, but there was no evidence that the suspect knowingly or intentionally assaulted anyone. 

The suspect’s behavior was vulgar, very upsetting to all those involved, and tarnished the reputation of the Scottsdale community. However, the incident did not rise to the point of criminality. 

Finally, City Council is not allowed to influence the outcome of a prosecutorial decision. As such, neither the Mayor nor any City Council member attempted to involve themselves in the investigation or prosecutorial decision in this matter. The suspect, Gilbert Ortega, is no relation to Scottsdale Mayor David D. Ortega.

Statement from the City of Scottsdale:

While the legal review has concluded, it is clear that the conduct as recorded on video in this incident was a nauseating example of the bigotry that sadly can still be found in this country. Our community rejects racism and hate speech in all its forms, instead choosing to embrace and celebrate a Scottsdale that welcomes and respects all people. Through the Scottsdale Human Relations Commission and other community partners, we are committed to engaging our residents to assist in identifying ways we can continue to promote cultural awareness, understanding and unity in Scottsdale.


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