Unarmed Black Teen Fatally Shot By White Man For Setting Off Fireworks On July 4

Unarmed Black Teen Fatally Shot By White Man For Setting Off Fireworks On July 4

Jason Roche claimed Devonte Ortiz lunged at him with a gun, but police say that isn’t true.

Published July 10, 2018

On July 4, 19-year-old Devonte Ortiz, of Austin, Texas, was celebrating like many other Americans, by setting off fireworks. However, when a grown man began a dispute with Ortiz over the fireworks, a gun was drawn and the teen was fatally shot.

While Jason Roche, 41, confessed to shooting Ortiz, he claimed he acted in self-defense. However, police in Austin said video evidence and medical exams tell a different story.

According to the New York Times’ Daniel Vector, Roche said Ortiz reached for a gun and charged at him during an argument about fireworks, causing him to fire. However, police said cellphone videos from two witnesses show Ortiz was not holding a gun.

Additionally, the Travis County medical examiner found out Ortiz was running away from Roche during the shooting, not toward him, as he claimed.

Roche, 41, was arrested on Friday and charged with first-degree murder. He was being held in Travis County Jail with bail set at $250,000.

Ortiz was a 2017 graduate of Travis High School. His family said he was an honor roll student.

“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,” said Joseph Rauls, his coach, according to 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.”

According to an arrest affidavit, Roche told the police that he had asked Ortiz and his friends earlier in the night to stop setting off fireworks, but the group continued to set them off.

When Roche went back outside for a second time, he waved his gun around and re-holstered it several times, according to witness cellphone videos. Roche followed Ortiz around a car as they argued. 

At one point, Roche’s father, Dennis Roche, attempted to intervene; however, when Ortiz pushed Dennis, who fell to the ground, Jason Roche shot at Ortiz.

Ortiz was not holding a gun at the time, according to the affidavit.

Although the police said they later found an AR-15-style rifle in the area, they have not determined who the gun belonged to. 

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: KXAN/Austin Police Department)

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