Video shows a suspect in the home three times: once in police uniform, twice removing items.
A California Sheriff’s Deputy has been accused of stealing from a dead man’s home.
Steve Hortz, a 12-year veteran of Orange County Sheriff’s Department, was arrested by his colleagues on Thursday and placed on administrative leave.
On July 20 Deputy Hortz was dispatched to a home in Yorba Linda, responding to reports a resident who was in his 70s had died, apparently of natural causes.
But officials claim he subsequently returned to the unoccupied home three more times — once in uniform to unlock a door, and twice more to take several items.
Security video from the home appears to corroborate the accusation; it appears to show Hortz in full uniform, with his Sheriff vest and badge in clear view, as he gains access to the back patio and appears to check the locks.
Subsequent nighttime footage, also released by the Sheriff’s Office, show a suspect in plain clothes entering the home through the same back entrance on two separate nights, and removing several items.
On one night the suspect can be seen entering the home carrying a pickaxe and a flashlight; he reemerges with a pair of ceiling fans, before wheeling away a safe on a dolly.
On another night, the suspect is seen walking out of the home with a rifle case, as well as several other items “yet to be determined”, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The deceased man’s estate reported the missing items to the Sheriff’s Department and passed on the security footage, according to NBC.
“The suspected criminal actions of this deputy are a violation of public trust, are inexcusable and intolerable,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement, per the OC Register.
“This deputy will be held accountable through a swift and thorough process, including a full criminal and internal administrative investigation.”
In an internal memo seen by the publication, Sheriff Barnes said Hortz’s alleged crimes had undermined the work done by deputies, at a time when their “profession is under intense scrutiny”, and called on staff to “demonstrate the highest levels of professionalism.”
He also reminded them that Hortz was innocent until proven guilty, adding: “Although the facts in the case support the arrest of Deputy Hortz, he is afforded and entitled to the due process rights of anyone arrested for a crime.”
The day before Hortz’s arrest, the District Attorney announced an unrelated case against another OC Deputy, 41-year-old Angelina Cortez, who is accused of taking a credit card belonging to a suspect and giving it to her son to use, instead of logging it as evidence.
She is charged with filing a false police report, and could face three years in prison if convicted.