Investigators aren’t buying claims that a 41-year-old man fatally shot a teenager in self-defense after a dispute over fireworks.
Jason Roche was charged with first-degree murder Friday (July 6) following the shooting death of 19-year-old Devonte Ortiz, The Washington Post reports. The shooting happened on Independence Day (July 4) when Roche and Ortiz argued about fireworks outside of the Pleasant Hill Apartments in Austin, Texas.
Roche told police he asked Ortiz and his friends to stop shooting fireworks late Wednesday evening. The group allegedly ignored him, leading him to approach them once again. Roche said Ortiz became combative. After getting into a scuffle, Roche claimed Ortiz threatened him with a gun leading him to shoot him the torso.
“Roche stated Ortiz had removed a firearm from the vehicle minutes before the shooting but had placed it on the ground,” an affidavit stated. But witnesses and cell phone footage tell another story.
In videos filmed by witnesses in the area, Roche is seen following Ortiz around his car while reholstering his firearm. The affidavit adds Roche “is observed displaying a firearm at Ortiz, reholstering the firearm then displaying the firearm multiple times,” the affidavit stated. Ortiz was also reportedly moving away from Roche–not lunging towards him like Roche told police.
Roche’s father, who was also outside, tried to break up the argument. Roche’s father and Ortiz “engaged in a verbal altercation and mutual shoving of each other,” with Roche’s father falling to the ground. The suspect then pulled the trigger and shot Ortiz. Police revealed Ortiz was not armed at the time of the incident but did have a gun in his car.
Ortiz’s family held a vigil on Saturday (July 7) outside of his old high school. The teen was a former honor roll student and star football player at Travis High School. His family said he took classes at Blinn College but took a break to take care of his family.
“He’s one of those guys who comes to the program that, as a coach, you love having that type of player, because for one, are you going to coach him, but he’s going to teach you some things about life,” former coach Joseph Rauls told KXAN.
“He was one of those young men that doesn’t come on every year. You see how he develops through the program, and you just look forward to seeing him become a good young man and have his own family and be a good community leader, and that was taken away.”
Amber Garcia, his girlfriend of two years also shared her feelings about Ortiz’s spirit. “He was so passionate and outgoing and so smart,” Garcia said.
“That boy gave me the world. He gave me the world. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I just want to lay on him and I just want to hear his heartbeat and I just want to hold my baby.”
A GoFundMe has been created for Ortiz’s funeral expenses. Set up by family friend Tontanisha Freeman, the campaign has raised over $10,000.
“Devonte has never been in trouble, never been the type of child that was confrontational he was a normal kid with a bright future ahead and it all ended to a senseless tragedy,” Freeman said. “Anything he did he did with his whole heart.”
Garcia says she wished there was a different outcome to the senseless shooting. “He didn’t deserve none of this,” she said. “And I just feel like everything could have been handled a different way.”
Roche is being held at the Travis County Jail on a $250,000 bond.