Jurors will consider soon whether Orlando Ortiz acted out of rage or in self-defense when he ended a Queens man's life by unleashing a barrage of bullets behind a Valley Stream restaurant.
In closing arguments Wednesday, a prosecutor said Ortiz, 32, of Valley Stream, executed unarmed victim Richard Baccus, 50, of Rosedale, after an argument spilled outside Ay! Caramba on Dec. 23 after the two acquaintances had been drinking.
"How do you shoot someone nine times and say you don't have the intent to kill?" Assistant District Attorney Brian Lee asked.
Testimony in a Mineola court showed police found fake bounty hunter credentials inside a black BMW with the body of Baccus, who ran a car-painting business from his nearby home.
But it was the presence of a flashlight police also found in the car that Ortiz's defense lawyer, Stephen Drummond, seized upon to tell jurors they should have a reasonable doubt Ortiz intended to kill Baccus.
Drummond said in his closing argument it was believable Ortiz saw the black flashlight in Baccus' hands as the man threatened to kill him and mistook it for a gun in a dark parking lot before Ortiz fired his revolver to save himself. He conceded Ortiz's weapon was not registered, but insisted his client wasn't a murderer.
Drummond also insinuated that police moved the flashlight from Baccus' hand after he was dead to discredit a justification defense by the shooter, saying they at first thought that Baccus was a law enforcement officer.
The defense lawyer said while an ambulance medical technician testified he saw the flashlight in Baccus' hand, police never documented that.
"The fact that he died with this in his hand is a communication to you," Drummond told jurors, holding up the small black flashlight.
But Lee said police never moved it. He slumped forward in a chair to show how he said the victim's body could lean hours after death, causing the object to slide from Baccus' thigh area -- where his hand had been resting -- and to the back of his seat.
"They weren't trying to cover up," he said.