New Mexico Man Busted for Shooting Just Weeks After He Was 'Red-Flagged' by Court

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There are plenty of reasons to oppose “red flag” laws; from the lack of due process that’s an inherent part of most Extreme Risk Protection Order statutes to the fact that there’s no mental health component to the vast majority of ERPO laws in place. But even setting aside those concerns, the fundamental flaw in “red flag” laws is that once any legally owned firearms are removed from someone the courts have determined to pose a threat to themselves or others, the system considers that a successful resolution… even if the dangerous person is still roaming the streets.


This isn’t some hypothetical concern either. In fact, a failure of this very kind took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico over the past couple of weeks. In mid-November, 24-year-old William Ortiz was told by a judge to hand over any legally owned guns in his possession and was barred from possessing or purchasing any more for up to a year after Ortiz’s psychiatrist filed a “red flag” request. According to Ortiz’s doctor, the man had access to a firearm and had talked about getting into an armed confrontation with police so that he’d be shot and killed; basically, a suicide-by-cop situation.

Ortiz had his guns taken away, but he wasn’t confined to a mental health facility even after a judge concluded that he posed a danger to himself or others. Just a few weeks after that decision Ortiz got that confrontation that he wanted, though he was taken alive by responding officers.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old was arrested when police say he was found walking on East Central — wearing body armor and firing a gun indiscriminately.

It is unclear how William Ortiz got his hands on a gun two weeks after the petition — known as the red flag law — was approved, ordering him to surrender all firearms.

Ortiz was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Thursday, charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon and battery upon a peace officer. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

Prosecutors filed a motion to keep Ortiz behind bars until trial, calling him “a very disturbed individual” and “a clear danger to the community.”

“The area he was discharging the firearm is a very busy one… his actions cannot be tolerated; he should be held for trial,” according to the motion.


Critics and supporters of “red flag” laws can both point to Ortiz’s history to make their respective cases, because he’s no stranger to the law. Four years ago Ortiz was received a mental health evaluation after attempting suicide, though he apparently wasn’t involuntarily committed. In September of 2020, Ortiz tried to stab his mother and stepfather with a sword, according to the ERPO petition filed with the courts, though the petition doesn’t say if he ever faced criminal charges in the attack.

On Nov. 11, about a week before his psychiatrist filed the ERPO petition Ortiz expressed suicidal thoughts to his father and spoke about acting in a way to make police shoot him cop. According to the Albuquerque Journal Ortiz “secured his guns and was checked into Kaseman Hospital for a mental health evaluation” after speaking with officers on the phone, though once again it appears as if he wasn’t in a mental health facility for long.

For fans of “red flag” laws, Ortiz’s repeated brushes with the law and mental health system demonstrate the need for an Extreme Risk Protection Order to deal with troubled individuals who fall through the cracks of the criminal justice and healthcare systems. For critics, however, each of those examples represents a failed opportunity to address Ortiz’s underlying mental illness and his suicidal ideation, and the fact that he was arrested for shooting a firearm on a busy public street just a few weeks after being “red flagged” shows the inherent problem with going after the gun and leaving the dangerous person to their own devices.

Regardless of where we stand on “red flag” laws, most of us would agree that Ortiz shouldn’t have any firearms in his possession for the time being. The problem is that simply prohibiting someone from lawfully possessing a gun doesn’t stop them from breaking the law to get ahold of one, as Ortiz appears to have done.

Ortiz could have been arrested and charged with attempted murder for attacking his mother and stepfather with a sword three years ago, and if he’d been convicted he’d likely still be behind bars today (and as a violent felon, prohibited from possessing a gun after he was released). He arguably should have been involuntarily committed and adjudicated as mentally defective during his repeated mental health evaluations, but apparently that never happened either. New Mexico’s “red flag” law was deployed instead, but rather than protecting the public, it put them at risk by spitting a dangerous individual back onto the streets; divested of his ability to legally purchase or possess a gun, but still more than capable of causing harm to himself or others.

I hope Ortiz can get the help he clearly needs and appears to have been seeking, as twisted and delusional as his way of going about it has been. I also hope this is a teachable moment for the “red flag” defenders in New Mexico, including Attorney General Raul Torrez, who wants to expand the use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders when fixing the “dire lack of mental health services” is a critical step to keep dangerous people from doing dangerous things to themselves or others.



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