A homeless man who allegedly began screaming and swearing at a 3-year-old child in a Hollywood restaurant has pleaded not guilty to killing a man who tried to protect the boy.
According to reports by the City News Service and the Associated Press, Jeremy Harris, 36, entered a voluntary manslaughter plea Monday.
Prosecutors said Harris punched Gabriel Ortega, 57, in the face and head when Ortega stepped in front of the boy at a Hollywood McDonald's on June 18, Ortega's birthday.
“Mr. Ortega stood in front of the child and told the individual to leave the child alone,” LAPD Detective Steven Katz said. “When he did this, the individual punched Mr. Ortega in the face and fled on foot.” Police responded, taking a battery report. Ortega said he would seek medical attention on his own.
He went home, but received medical treatment and was hospitalized two days later after he experienced headaches and vomiting, according to representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department. He died last month July 14. The coroner's office said the cause of death appeared to be blunt force trauma Ortega had sustained in the incident at the McDonald's restaurant.
Police had called for the public’s help finding the attacker, who had fled the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of Vine Street where the altercation occurred.
At least one of Ortega’s neighbors described him as “very happy,” according to reports, saying he was shocked by Ortega’s death.
Authorities say Harris, who faces 11 years' imprisonment if he is convicted, didn't know the boy. Harris' next court date was scheduled for Aug. 14. His bail was set at $100,000.