COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Franklin County prosecutors have set their sights on a Columbus Division of Police detective accused of leaving the scene of a deadly crash.
A Franklin County grand jury on Wednesday returned an indictment against Demetris Ortega, according to Prosecuting Attorney Gary G. Tyack. Ortega now faces a felony charge of failure to stop after an accident and a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle under the influence.
The case stems from an April 20, 2022 crash, where investigators determined the CPD detective was allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Ortega was in a car that struck and killed Naimo Abdirahman, 30, while she was walking across Morse Road near Walford Street. A passenger got out of the car and told witnesses to call 911, then got back in and drove away from the scene, according to Columbus police.
According to Tyack, Ortega has not been charged with vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide due to a lack of evidence.
In a statement, Ortega’s attorney Mark Collins said his client intends to plead not guilty at his arraignment, which is scheduled for May 10.
Ortega, who was relieved of duty following the crash, was also previously relieved of duty but rehired after another OVI charge from a 2015 collision. He pleaded guilty in that incident in 2016, and the judge suspended his driver’s license for six months alongside handing the detective a suspended 180-day jail sentence.
Tyack said that because investigators could not determine with certainty that Ortega was at fault in the crash with Abdirahman, they were missing a key element to charge him with vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide.
Russ Flickinger, the attorney representing Abdirahman’s family, said the family is relieved by the indictment and is weighing further legal action.
“The family is relieved that the evidence against Officer Ortega has finally been presented to a grand jury and that an indictment was handed down,” Flickinger said in a statement. “It is their hope that justice will finally be served, and that it will provide some peace of mind for the family.
“It is their intention to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Officer Ortega, and any other parties involved in the death of Niamo.”