Penfield, NY – Rochester Police Department (RPD) Officer Manuel “Manny” Ortiz died on Nov. 2 after he accidentally shot himself in the leg while driving to work.
Investigators said that the 52-year-old officer’s personal Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun was unholstered and somewhere near his waist when it discharged, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
The bullet passed through his left thigh, hitting his femoral artery, and impacted the inside of the driver’s door.
Officer Ortiz called his fiancé and told her about the accidental shooting just before 7 p.m., Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter told reporters during a press conference on Monday.
Officer Ortiz explained that he was driving himself to the hospital and the fiancé immediately called 911, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
But as he was traveling down Empire Boulevard, the veteran officer’s SUV drifted over the center lane, then crashed into a ravine.
Witnesses called 911 as a group of good Samaritans rushed to the unconscious officer’s aid, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
Monroe County deputies arrived at the scene within minutes and applied two tourniquets in an effort to save Officer Ortiz’s life.
The deputies – three of whom Officer Ortiz had trained – then carried the wounded officer back up to the roadway to a waiting ambulance.
Officer Ortiz died at the scene a short while later, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
Investigators located his re-holstered weapon inside the crashed SUV.
"We may never know how the gun went off," Sheriff Baxter said during the press conference. "This was a tragic accident."
Officer Ortiz was a 22-year veteran of the RPD, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
"Manny meant a lot to this department and this community," Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary said. "We lost a great one. He was a giant in this department, a cop's cop, a true servant of his community."
Chief Singletary said it was “heartbreaking” to lose a “brother officer,” the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
Officer Ortiz was working as a crime prevention officer with the RPD’s Community Affairs Bureau at the time of his tragic death.
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Duffy said that Officer Ortiz was “a great cop and a better man,” according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
"He is someone who did a great job as a cop and had a great heart for the community…he was one of those personalities that made the department, inside and out,” Duffy said. “He was universally liked and respected both inside and outside the Rochester Police Department.”
The local Latino community is also in mourning over the loss of the beloved officer.
"He was kind, approachable and he truly loved his community," Ibero Children and Family Stability Services Director Ida Perez told the Democrat & Chronicle. "It didn't matter where I saw him, in blue or not, he always received me with a big smile… and a hug.”
"The entire Latino community is in mourning," Perez added. "Losing Manny is losing one of the longstanding advocates for Latinos within the police department."
Former WHAM journalist Norma Holland said that Officer Ortiz was proud of his law enforcement service, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
“[He was] a huge role model for people in the Hispanic community, who saw in him themselves,” Holland explained.
In addition to his fiancé, Officer Ortiz also leaves behind his three children.
“The passing of Officer Manuel ‘Manny’ Ortiz is a tragedy and a great loss for our city," Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren tweeted on Sunday. "Officer Ortiz was not only devoted to his career of service, but to his wife and children as well."
A fundraising page established to assist Officer Ortiz’ family in the wake of his death has raised over $6,800.
Officer Ortiz will be laid to rest on Friday, Rochester La Voz reported.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Rochester Police Department Officer Manuel “Manny” Ortiz, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.