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Alleged gang member to enter plea in 2017 Mission District homicide

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Thomas Ortiz (Courtesy SFPD)

Hours into the new year in 2017, a man ran out of a liquor store in the Mission District with a gun tucked into his camouflage hoodie. A surveillance camera recorded as he rushed a group of men passing in the dark, bashed one over the head with the loaded pistol and fired at point-blank range.

His target, a 21-year-old father named Ernesto Rosales, did not survive. Rosales made it only a block to the corner of 26th and Shotwell streets before collapsing with a gunshot wound and a gash in his forehead.

A year and a half later, prosecutors revealed those new details about the homicide in court records filed this month in the murder case against 22-year-old Thomas Ortiz, an alleged member of the Army Street Gang. He was arrested in Sacramento on July 13 and later charged with murder.

The Army Street Gang is named after the so-called Army Street projects, or Bernal Dwellings, a square block of public housing bordered by 26th and Cesar Chavez streets to the north and south, and Folsom and Harrison streets to the west and east. Cesar Chavez Street used to be called Army Street.

The projects were once infamous for violence and drug dealing.

On the morning of the killing, prosecutors allege Ortiz and two other documented members of the Army Street Gang were inside Rubin’s Market at 26th and Folsom streets when Rosales and his friends walked by.

Prosecutor Adam Maldonado said in court records that Ortiz ran out “brazenly and inexplicably” after one of his friends charged the men. Ortiz then allegedly pistol-whipped Rosales in the temple and shot him from a few feet away.

Maldonado said Ortiz acted, “without any apparent provocation.”

The shooter and his accomplices fled the scene before police arrived.

Police later found surveillance footage of Ortiz leaving a relative’s home at 2973 Folsom St. 10 minutes before the shooting, and returning to the home minutes after it, prosecutors said. The address is less than a block from the crime scene.

When Ortiz returned to the home, he was allegedly “favoring his left hand — the same hand he used to pistol-whip and subsequently shoot the victim — which appeared to now be bleeding,” Maldonado wrote.

Prosecutors said Ortiz was wearing the same distinctive green camouflage jacket, wide-framed glasses and white shoes in the video from the residential building and as the shooter in the video of the killing.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for his arrest last February, but Ortiz was not arrested until earlier this month. It’s not clear why.

Rosales was just one of two men shot and killed in San Francisco on the first day of 2017 and six homicide victims reported that January.

Ortiz is scheduled to enter a plea Aug. 17.

An attorney for Ortiz did not respond to a request for comment.

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