Florida Keys

Sheriff’s Office and Miami-Dade PD argue over which agency should investigate teen’s death

Roberto Ornelas died Jan. 1, days after being stun-gunned in the Keys. Miami-Dade police have reluctantly accepted the investigation.
Roberto Ornelas died Jan. 1, days after being stun-gunned in the Keys. Miami-Dade police have reluctantly accepted the investigation.

The Miami-Dade Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office are sparring over which agency should investigate the death of a Key Largo teen stun-gunned by a Keys deputy on New Year’s Day.

Roberto Ornelas, 18, died in Homestead on Jan. 5, four days after a Monroe deputy used his Taser on him. The Miami-Dade Police Department was originally said to be the agency investigating the cause of death. But Detective Romelio Martinez, a spokesman, said earlier this week that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office took over the case.

That was news to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Becky Herrin, the Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said there was no investigation.

“He didn’t die here, and we have no other complaints we would be looking into,” she said.

Martinez said Friday that Miami-Dade was taking the case back, but he said the Sheriff’s Office should be the one investigating Ornelas’ death.

“Apparently, MCSO is refusing to handle this case even though it still shows as having occurred in their jurisdiction,” Martinez said in an email. “The medical examiner has not completed their investigation. Once they are done, the MDPD detective assigned the case will be able to continue the investigation, and we may have some information that can be released at that time.”

Ernst Louis, an investigator with the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office, said Ornelas’ autopsy results are still pending. He said it could be another month before information is released.

Herrin said at the time of Ornelas’ death that there would be no internal investigation because deputies acted properly when they were called to the Ornelas home.

His father, Guadalupe Ornelas, called the police around 4 a.m. on Jan. 1. He said his son was throwing things around their Marlin Avenue home “for unknown reasons.”

Two deputies arrived and came across the younger Ornelas in his bedroom with the door locked. He was screaming “incoherent sentences” and “outbursts of words,” one of the deputies wrote in his report.

When the deputies forced their way into Ornelas’ room, they said he was “sweating profusely, his eyes were wide open with a blank stare as if staring through you and [he] was foaming around his mouth and nose area.”

One deputy grabbed Ornelas by the arm, but the teen broke free. According to the deputies’ report, Ornelas spit in one deputy’s face and lunged toward him. That’s when the deputy shot his Taser stun gun and hit Ornelas in the torso.

An ambulance took Ornelas to Mariners Hospital. It is still unclear how he ended up in Homestead.