Cited for misdemeanors and released, after menacing family twice in the same night; “We’ll get it submitted to the DA” – Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen
By Allen Payton
In an effort to get the man put in jail, who Brentwood Police arrested early Saturday morning for vandalism after menacing a family outside their front door, twice and once with a machete at 4:00 a.m., and stealing their security cameras, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office said they will consider the case once the police send it to them.
“We are still filing cases but only if they are serious or violent felonies and certain misdemeanors, like domestic violence,” wrote Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer for the Contra Costa District Attorney on Thursday, “Brentwood PD can bring the case over to us for a filing decision. They have a year to do so if it is a misdemeanor and three years for a felony. For this instance, they did not bring the case over for our review given the ongoing crisis and impacts on the court. Since March 30 we have been able to file only the most serious cases.”
“We are working well with our justice partners to reduce the threat of COVID-19 among our jails,” he continued. “We are doing the following with our partners (Sheriff, Public Defender, Probation and Courts): Delayed the prosecution of non-violent crimes and other crimes which do not impact Public Safety; Identified and released elderly and vulnerable inmates whose release does not impact Public Safety; and Arranged the early release of inmates with less than 60 days left to serve in their sentences.”
Later Saturday morning, the homeowner, Voltaire Apse, posted a comment to the Brentwood Police Facebook page along with a screenshot of the surveillance video of the man, showing a scene that appeared to be straight out of a horror movie, which was shared on social media and with the Herald late Tuesday night. Apse explained the frightening ordeal he and his family experienced.
A KTVU Fox 2 news report on Wednesday showed the surveillance video of the man approaching the residents’ front door with a machete in hand and stealing the surveillance cameras. The report claimed the man wasn’t taken to county jail due to COVID-19 concerns and was merely cited for misdemeanors and released.
Then according to a KPIX CBS 5 news report on Thursday, the Brentwood Police explained why they had only charged the man with misdemeanors of vandalism, for stealing the family’s security cameras and slashing one of the tires on their car, citing and then releasing him. That’s because they weren’t aware the man had a machete, since the homeowner hadn’t shared that information.
“We didn’t know about the machete until later,” said Brentwood Police Chief Tom Hansen Thursday evening.
The suspect’s name is Adam Scott Ortega.
“We know this guy. He’s a regular,” the chief stated. “That was a poor Channel 2 news report that people weren’t going to jail (because of COVID-19). The picture was scary. We arrested him.”
“Even if it wasn’t COVID-19, possession of a machete isn’t a crime,” Hansen explained. “You have to brandish or assault someone with it. It was a misleading story that got everyone worked up. That’s why I got on it, this morning. I got messages out to the city council. We put it out on our Facebook page.”
“The county chiefs talked to the sheriff, today and we talked about these kinds of cases,” he shared. “The sheriff is very supportive of the chiefs, as is the DA. We’ll get it sent to the DA. We have to meet certain elements of crime in order to arrest and charge someone. We didn’t recover a machete. We don’t know if he wasn’t using it to pry off something. He stole some stuff. It looks like a machete. He didn’t threaten anyone. He did scare some people. I would have been scared, too if he came to my house.”
Asked if the case was sent over to the DA’s office, Hansen replied, “not today, but it will go over with the misdemeanors. I’m hoping with the information that I released, today that it didn’t take 15 minutes to get there, it took five minutes, then it took a minute and 30 seconds to get there (the second time), it will help alleviate some concern in the community.”
The post on the Brentwood Police Department’s Facebook page reads as follows:
“We are receiving a lot of feedback about a story on social media and the local news that has raised concerns with some in the community. And, that response is understandable given the partial information that has been reported.
The story involved a suspect, holding a machete, who was on the front porch of a Brentwood home, who vandalized the property, and ultimately was arrested and cited by our officers for a misdemeanor and not taken to county jail.
But, there is a key element missing from this story.
As far as our officers were concerned when they responded that morning, there was no machete. Nor was there any reason to think a machete was part of this incident. The homeowner did not report that the man had a machete. The photos from the video surveillance the homeowner provided did not show the suspect holding a machete. When officers found the suspect, he wasn’t holding a machete.
The photos attached to this post are the images the officers saw that morning.
It was only on the NEXT DAY that we were provided a new portion of the video by the homeowner showing the suspect holding a machete.
It was clearly a traumatic night for the homeowner and his family. Often times, in situations like this, important information does not come out immediately and, given the dramatic nature of these events, that’s not unreasonable.
At the time, what our officers were confronted with was a suspect that had knocked on the homeowner’s door shortly after 2 AM, was seen on-camera wearing a mask and looking into cars, he slashed a car tire, and had damaged and removed two security cameras.
Officers responded within five minutes but the suspect was not there. He did return to the home at around 4 AM, and this time our officers, responded in one minute and found the suspect near the home.
All of the stolen items, which were returned to the homeowner, were valued at $300. Under state law this is petty theft, a misdemeanor. He was arrested but released with a notice to appear in court. This is how petty theft and vandalism investigations are currently handled.
If the officers had information at the time about a machete, it could have altered the outcome of the investigation and arrest. This new evidence will be delivered to the District Attorney’s Office for further consideration of additional charges.
In addition, we are working under this new directive provided by Sheriff Livingston to all Contra Costa Police Agencies:
‘The highest risk of exposure and spread of the virus will come from arrestees brought into the facility. Therefore, the Office of the Sheriff will only be accepting arrestees charged with felony on-view crimes and warrants, domestic violence related misdemeanors, and restraining order violations. We ask all arresting agencies make reasonable efforts to limit the number of transports to the Martinez Detention Facility by exercising authority to cite release in the field in lieu of transporting and booking. If exceptions to this policy become necessary, please have your on-duty supervisor or watch commander contact the jail supervisor or sheriff’s office watch commander to discuss.’
We have received several questions as to how we would allow an armed person with a machete get away.
We hope this provides an understanding of what we did, and why, given the information we had at the time.
Sometimes the law can be very frustrating and confusing, but know that we will always do our utmost to provide our community with the best service possible.”
Apse responded to the post by the Brentwood Police in a post on his own Facebook page, Thursday evening, writing:
“After the officers left (that would be approximately between 4:30-5am) I took time to review my video footage. That was when I saw the suspect holding the machete and was attempting to get inside the house. (Banging on the door). Right after this, I downloaded the video footage, and sent it via text message right away to the responding officer. I sent the message exactly at 6:48 am. She did not respond to me. This is not the NEXT DAY.
This was just a couple of hours after the incident. I even called her once around 10am, she did not respond. So, I called BPD exactly at 10:15am. I was told that the only person who can help was the responding officer herself. So, whoever answered the phone transfered [sic] me to the responding officers voice mail. Around 6:45pm, she was calling me and left a voice message stating that she received the video I sent earlier that day.
So, that means, she acknowledged that I informed her about the machete, on the same day. Eventually, late that evening, I was able to talk on the phone with the responding officer and she said she will add the machete incident to the case.”
Reached for comment about the incident on Wednesday night, Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said he would call the police chief Thursday morning, and Councilwoman Claudette Staton said she would call District Attorney Diana Becton on Thursday, as well.
“The Chief of Police got right on it,” Taylor said on Thursday. “He heard from the city manager. He covered every detail of what we were upset about. He did a recap of what happened, and he took action where it was appropriate” and now the case is going to be sent to the DA’s office.
“There’s even more to the story. The Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t take him,” Taylor added. “And they’re letting out the criminals. I don’t want them to catch the virus. But, meanwhile I’m in an 8 by 12 cell, myself.”
“I put a call into District Attorney Diana Becton, today,” said Councilwoman Staton. “DA Becton told me she’s aware of the incident but that it will have to be brought to her for her to consider it. It hasn’t been brought to the DA’s office, yet.”
Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs for the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff was asked Wednesday night if Sheriff David Livingston would make an exception in this case and put the man in jail.
He responded Thursday evening, “I have not heard back from him, yet.”
However, Livingston can’t make a decision until the case has been sent to the DA’s office and they decide to file charges against Ortega. Then the sheriff can decide if he will make an exception to the COVID-19 situation and put the suspect in jail.