Johnny Ortiz is a 24-year-old actor who has appeared in films and TV shows including McFarland, USA; El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and American Crime. He has been charged with attempted murder, according to Fox News.
Ortiz was arrested on May 25 along with 18-year-old Armando Miguel Navarro, who the Los Angeles County District Attorney said pulled the trigger during the pair’s attempt to kill a man named Brian Duke on May 24, Fox News reported. Ortiz faces a charge of premeditated attempted murder, but details of his involvement in the murder remain unknown at this point.
According to the complaint from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Ortiz and Navarro tried to kill Duke “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang with the specific intent to promote, further and assist in criminal conduct by gang members,” the criminal complaint obtained by Fox News shows.
Heavy has contacted the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to receive a copy of the complaint.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ortiz Faces 25 Years to Life in Prison If Convicted
According to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors on May 27, the actor could spend 25 years to life in prison if he is found guilty, and he “faces a decade more in additional sentences,” Deadline reported. Navarro, who the DA said fired the shots at Duke, also faces life in prison.
The pair have been held in custody by the LA County Sheriff’s Department since their arrest in late May, and they appeared in court in downtown Los Angeles on July 20, according to Deadline. Ortiz has pleaded not guilty at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center and is being held on $1.1 million bail, while Navarro is being held on bail of more than $2 million, Deadline reported.
Ortiz is set to appear in court again on September 22 for a preliminary hearing for the case, according to Fox News.
Fox News said attorneys for the duo did not respond to a request for comments immediately, while Yahoo News reported that Ortiz’s representative declined to comment.
2. Ortiz’s Family Tried to Raise Funds to Bail Him Out of Jail but Deleted the GoFundMe Page
Ortiz’s family created a GoFundMe campaign on July 13, raising funds to bail him out of jail, according to Yahoo News. In the fundraising post, his family praised his previous contributions to his community and claimed that he was innocent, Fox News and Daily News reported. According to the Daily News, the GoFundMe campaign read:
Johnny is everything to our family. Johnny does everything to help the community and the Hispanic community especially.
Johnny has contributed to many non-profit organizations and community organizations. He is in jail fighting for his case that he is innocent on. We want our beloved family member back with us. He’s a brother, son, and friend to our family.
3. Ortiz Is Best Known for His Roles in McFarland, USA & El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Ortiz has had a passion for acting since the age of 5, he told Latin Heat Entertainment in 2016. He said he called 411 when he was 5 and asked about how he could become an actor.
When he was 11, he began studying acting with his mentor and teacher, Edward Padilla, at Casa 0101 Theater, according to his ABC bio page. He has appeared in more than 20 movies and TV shows, his IMDb page shows.
One of his best-known characters is Jose Cardenas, a teenage runner in McFarland, USA. The film, which starred Kevin Costner, was based on a true story about a high school cross-country team, according to the Mercury News.
Ortiz is also known for his role as a busboy in last year’s Netflix movie El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. He also acted alongside Jennifer Garner in the 2018 movie Peppermint and played Tony Gutierrez in American Crime, an ABC drama.
4. Ortiz Went to Jail as a Juvenile
This is not the first time Ortiz has ended up in jail. In a 2015 interview with Project Eñye, Ortiz said most of his family is in gangs and he grew up with a physically abusive father. He said he got kicked out of school when he was in third grade for trying to stab someone with a screwdriver.
Ortiz said he was driven to the streets and gangs after seeing his sister going hungry; he didn’t know what else to do. He was later sent to jail for theft and spent two years behind bars. After the first six months of incarceration, he said felt he needed to do something for himself. “I got on my knees literally every day and prayed to God and said, ‘If you give me one more chance, if you show me I can do it, I’ll do it,'” he said.
He got his second chance when he met Padilla, whom he called his “second dad” in the interview, and, with training from Padilla, started to land roles in movies and TV shows. “Dreams are possible,” he said.
5. Ortiz Had a Tough Childhood & Went Through a ‘Messed-Up’ Situation
Growing up on the east side of Los Angeles, Ortiz’s childhood was surrounded by gangs, drugs, violence and domestic abuse, according to Project Eñye. “I grew up in gangs,” he said in the interview. “Most of my family are gangs.”
Ortiz’s mother is from Guatemala and his father is from Mexico. Both of his parents crossed the border illegally into the U.S., he told Project Eñye.
Ortiz said he went through a “messed-up situation” in his early life. His dad physically abused him and his mother. “I never understood why every time I got kicked out of school, why couldn’t he talk to me, why would he just hit me,” he said.
“I always thought I would just see myself in three paces,” he said. “It was either jail, in a wheelchair or dead.”
Some of his roles mirrored his own life, according to Latin Heat Entertainment, and he wanted to “portray gang bangers in a human way.”