An Orange County sheriff’s deputy suspected of breaking into the Yorba Linda home of a man who died in July is now on paid leave after being arrested, officials said Thursday.
Surveillance footage captured Deputy Steve Hortz breaking into the home on at least three occasions and leaving with stolen possessions such as weapon safes, ceiling fans and cases of unknown items, according to the O.C. Sheriff’s Department. He was booked into Santa Ana Jail on suspicion of burglary.
He is currently on paid administrative leave, said Carrie Braun, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department.
However, she said, the agency is “looking into the possibility” of getting him on unpaid leave.
Hortz responded to a call for service at the home on July 20 regarding the death of a man in his 70s, who apparently died from natural causes, officials said.
On Wednesday, an attorney representing the family estate of the man contacted the Sheriff’s Department about items reported missing from the home, officials said. He gave the department footage showing the deputy breaking in.
“Yesterday was when the surveillance video was brought to our attention,” Braun said.
Braun said the department was investigating the alleged thefts after they were first reported about a week earlier. But the allegations were linked to Deputy Hortz for the first time on Wednesday, she said.
Hortz, a 12-year veteran of the department, first returned to the residence on July 27, a week after he responded to a call for service about the resident’s death, sheriff’s officials said.
“While in uniform, he broke into the unoccupied residence through the rear and left a short time later,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Officials said it’s not clear if Hortz stole items from the home during that incident.
However, during the early morning hours of Aug. 10 and Aug. 16, he allegedly returned to the home wearing civilian clothes and walked away with several stolen items, according to sheriff’s officials.
The department will investigate prior calls handled by Hortz to determine whether similar incidents occurred in the past, officials said.
“I will do everything we can to make sure he does not return to a uniform in this organization or anywhere else for that matter,” O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said during a news conference Thursday.
Barnes said he expects Hortz will be charged and convicted “based on the evidence we have against him.”
And if he is convicted, Barnes said, “he does not deserve to work in this profession anymore.”
“He’s embarrassed this profession, he’s embarrassed this organization, and he’s embarrassed the almost 4,000 members who do good work everyday,” Barnes said.
Neighbors identified the man as local realtor Ken Gyger. Authorities had not released the resident’s name Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced a felony charge against another O.C. sheriff’s deputy suspected of stealing.
Deputy Angelina Cortez allegedly took a bank card from a theft suspect back in November 2018 and gave it to her son, who then used it, prosecutors said.