Lawrence man who threatened a police officer with a shotgun sentenced to 19 months in prison

A Lawrence man shot by police more than two years ago and later convicted of aiming a loaded shotgun at an officer during the incident was sentenced on Friday to serve more than a year in prison.

Zachary James Ortiz, 26, was found guilty of one felony count of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer on July 22. He was arrested the morning of June 23, 2014, after he aimed a loaded shotgun at Lawrence Police Officer Skyler Richardson.

Friday afternoon Ortiz appeared in court to be sentenced.

Before Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel announced her decision, both Richardson and Ortiz addressed the court.

The morning of Ortiz’s arrest, Richardson said he was responding to a report of shots fired. And then the situation escalated quickly.

Now, Richardson said every time he hears a call for shots fired from dispatch, he becomes anxious.

“I’ve had many sleepless nights,” he said. “I can’t imagine how many time I’ve seen Zachary Ortiz with that shotgun pointed at me.”

Often when speaking with children, Richardson said they’ll ask whether he’s shot somebody.

“Every time a kid asks me that question it bothers me,” he said. “That’s something I’ll have to live with for the next 30 years of my career.”

Adding insult to injury, Ortiz has “not made any amends for his actions or demonstrated any remorse for his actions,” Richardson said.

Richardson said he believes the Lawrence community would be a safer place with Ortiz in prison.

However, Defense Attorney Cooper Overstreet asked Kittel to consider probation for his client.

If he were granted probation, Overstreet said Ortiz would seek inpatient treatment for an addiction to alcohol, which contributed to the incident with Richardson.

Ortiz echoed Overstreet’s request for probation, saying he would take full advantage of a chance to battle his substance abuse problem.

“I do accept full responsibility for my actions on June 23, 2014,” he said. “I am truly sorry to Skyler Richardson and I hope he could find it in his heart to accept my apology.”

photo by: Nick Krug

Zachary Ortiz sits between his counsel during his sentencing on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 in Divison VI court room at the Douglas County Law Enforcement Center. Ortiz was found guilty on July 22 of one felony count of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer after he leveled a loaded shotgun at Lawrence police officer Skyler Richardson.

Kittel, however, said she does not believe Ortiz has a strong enough support system at home to successfully pursue a treatment program with probation. She noted that he has had two years since the case began to seek treatment.

“When you are abusing substances, you become reckless and you become very dangerous,” she said.

Kittel also said she was concerned that despite Ortiz’s addiction to alcohol he had access to a shotgun and ammunition.

Kittel denied Overstreet’s probation request and sentenced Ortiz to serve the maximum sentence of 19 months in prison. Upon his release he will have to register as a violent offender for 15 years.

Overstreet said he was disappointed in Kittel’s decision and plans to appeal.

“We do feel that Mr. Ortiz is an individual who could be and should be given an opportunity to address his substance abuse issue,” he said.