By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Friends and family of a slain Sheridan star baseball player pounded the streets of south Denver Wednesday evening hoping to uncover the truth behind what police are describing as a “senseless” murder.
When 21-year-old William “Billy” Ortiz stopped for a haircut on June 5th, the last thing his friends and family expected was that the next phone call they would receive was to inform them that he had been murdered. But that was their nightmare.
Following his haircut at Galaxy Hair and Nails in the 2400 block of South Federal, Ortiz walked back to his car where he was approached by a man. Sitting inside his car, a small argument broke out, but police have no idea what brought about the confrontation.
What authorities do believe is that a white or Hispanic man pulled out a gun and “viciously shot Billy in the head.” Why? They do not know.
Ortiz was rushed to the hospital, but he died of his injuries the following morning.
His girlfriend, Jasmine Williams, sped to the hospital to be by his side.
“I couldn’t even find my way to the hospital,” Williams said Wednesday outside the District Four police station where about 50 friends and family joined police to distribute Crime Stoppers fliers hoping to uncover answers. “I live around the corner from the hospital, but I was so distraught I had to call my mom for directions.”
With tears in their eyes and hugs all around, friends and family began canvassing the south Denver area near the Sheridan border with fliers in hand. They wore T-shirts from a softball game they organized back in July to remember Ortiz. Billy’s soft eyes and innocent smile beamed from their shirts.
Those who best knew the Sheridan High School shortstop described a young man with aspirations of making it in the minors. News that he was the victim of a murder simply didn’t make sense.
“He’s not the one out of any of us who deserved this,” said Bob, one of Ortiz’s best friends who declined to give his last name because the investigation is ongoing.
Bob was with Ortiz on the night of his murder, before 8:30 p.m.
“He always had plans for later in life — that’s what makes this so hard,” said Bob. “He wasn’t just thinking about hanging out the next day with you — he always wanted to be a friend to you.”
Williams has since fondly remembered her slain boyfriend so many times now that she can do so without breaking down — though tears still bubble in her red eyes.
“He was just always the man in my life,” said the 22-year-old of her three-year relationship with Ortiz. “He took care of me; he always knew what I needed.”
Police have no leads in the case. Denver Police Spokeswoman Vicki Ferrari said their best bet is someone simply coming forward with information.
Until then, all Denver and Sheridan police believe is that a white or Hispanic man in his late teens to early 20s, standing about 5-foot-10 to 5-foot-11 and weighing about 160-170 pounds, with very short, brown hair and brown eyes shot Ortiz.
Police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP. Callers can remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, Andrea, the mother of one of Ortiz’s best friends, questioned why the young baseball player was singled out.
“How could somebody do that to someone?” asked Andrea, who also declined to give her last name.
Prior to the fliering, detectives asked close friends and family who are part of the investigation to stay back so as to not create a “huge obstacle” to overcome in the investigation.
Capt. Joe Montoya, with the Denver Police Department, sincerely told the entire group, “This is not about helping us, this is about helping the family.”
Williams says if the suspect is ever caught, she wouldn’t even know what to tell him.
“I don’t think I would tell them anything,” she said. “I just have so much disgust and hatred for them. I wouldn’t want to say anything — I’m not that kind of person.”
William “Billy” Ortiz memorial fund:
HOW TO DONATE: Call or visit any Wells Fargo and mention the name William “Billy” Ortiz, Jr.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters