Just hours into the new year, Roberto Ornelas, an 18-year-old resident of Key Largo, started acting erratically. So his father called police to intervene. Monroe County deputies ended up tasering Ornelas and died days later, but the Monroe County Sheriff's Office claims it's not their duty to investigate his death, because Ornelas was transported to and died at Homestead Hospital in Miami-Dade. They claim that there's nothing left for them to investigate, and the circumstances surrounding his death should be domain of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Ornelas' family say Roberto was a good kid, and his only previous run in with the law was a pot possession charge. The teen ended up entering a program that required monthly drug testing, and Roberto has been clean for more than a year. So his outburst on New Year's Eve came as a surprise.
"He was behaving for over a year," the older Ornelas told New Times in January. "He wasn't doing drugs at all. That's why I really don't understand this at all."
The teen went out with friends for New Year's Eve, but returned and said he felt ill. He however put on loud music and started punching around his room. The teen started yelling and acting more aggressively. Unsure of what to do, his father called the police. Deputies found him in his room, screaming, breaking things, and punching at his closet. They were forced to break down the locked door and found the teen's blood all over the room. A police report noted that deputies believed he was on some sort of drug.
Ornelas became aggressive with the officers, and they took out a stun gun and tased him after a struggle. The teen was originally taken to Mariners Hospital in the Keys, but his condition worsened and he was taken to Homestead Hospital where he later died.
Monroe deputies claim that since he died in Miami-Dade and that their officers followed procedure they have nothing to investigate.
When the Keys Reporter went to follow up on the case they called the Miami-Dade PD, but the department said it had given the case back to MCSD.
MCSD said it wasn't investigating either.
"He didn't die here, and we have no other complaints we would be looking into," a spokesman told the Reporter.
MDPD then clarified it took the case back.
“Apparently, MCSO is refusing to handle this case even though it still shows as having occurred in their jurisdiction,” MDPD Detective Romelio Martinez said in an email to the Reporter.
Complicating the mater is the fact that Romelio's autopsy has still not been completed, and the final report may take about another month to come in. MDPD will begin its investigation again once that information is available.
However, it seems that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office doesn't want to investigate the end results of its officers' actions in house.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.