Francisco Ortiz, 29, has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and related offenses in the shooting of 11-month-old Yazeem Jenkins, who was in a car with his father in Hunting Park on Saturday evening, officials said.
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This is not Ortiz’s first brush with the law or firearms, authorities said. The Philadelphia man was on bail for gun-related charges when he was arrested Thursday while walking into the Stout Center for Criminal Justice for a court appearance in a separate case.
In July, Ortiz was arrested for allegedly carrying a firearm without a license, carrying a firearm in public, and possessing a firearm while prohibited to do so. He was released from custody later in the month after his bail was slashed in half — from 10% of $100,000 to 10% of $50,000 — on a motion from his attorney.
In January, he was released from state prison after serving 10 years stemming from a guilty plea to carrying a firearm without a license, one of a pair of past convictions on firearms charges. Ortiz is also a “prime suspect” in a domestic-related homicide on the 400 block of Van Kirk Street in September, authorities said.
The 11-month-old boy was in the car when Ortiz fired at the moving vehicle Saturday, aiming for his father regarding “some type of narcotic interaction” and instead shooting the child four times, police said.
The child was last reported to be in critical condition and “has a long way to go,” officials said Friday.
Less than 24 hours later, in what authorities have described as another drug-related shooting, 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera was fatally shot in the back of the head while in her mother’s arms in their home in Kensington on Sunday afternoon. Two men have been arrested in that shooting — Freddie Perez, who was arrested Tuesday night, and Tayvon Thomas, who was taken into custody on a probation violation late Wednesday.
The two were seeking to settle an unspecified drug feud with Nikolette’s father, firing a rifle supplied by Ortiz into his Kensington home Sunday and instead striking the 2-year-old girl, and injuring her mother and a man cleaning the carpets. The cleaner, whom police said the shooters mistook for the girl’s father, was critically wounded.
Thomas admitted under questioning to being the shooter whose bullet struck and killed Nikolette, according to law enforcement sources. He has been charged with murder and other offenses.
Officials declined to specify whether Ortiz gave or sold the assault rifle to Thomas.
“Both of these cases are horrific demonstrations of how dangerous the drug trade is in the city of Philadelphia,” said Anthony Voci, chief of the Philadelphia district attorney’s Homicide Unit. “Drugs and violence go hand in hand.”
He added, “Some of the parents of these children are responsible for the death and severe injuries that were caused to their children. They engaged in narcotics behavior, narcotics transactions, narcotics operations. They put their children in harm’s way.”
At Friday’s news conference, authorities also commended the public for providing the tips, information, and “even a nickname” that helped lead to the arrests and charges of the three men.
“We would never have been able to do this without the public,” said Capt. Nick Brown, the commanding officer of East Detectives. “People have a special soft spot in their heart for children. That, to them, is when the line in the sand was drawn.”
In a separate interview Friday, Capt. Javier Rodriguez, commander of the 25th District, where Nikolette lived, said the community was outraged by the shootings. He said this was so even though the drug trade “drives the economy for a lot of folks” in that area.
“Everybody’s upset,” he said. “You don’t shoot at children.”