The Ortiz Story: The Psychology of A Murder, Oversight Vacuums, And The Need To Hold Authorities Accountable
Juan David Ortiz, 35, served his country in the Navy as a corpsman for eight years before he joined the U.S. Border Patrol where he became an intelligence supervisor. Ortiz is a husband and a father. He is also a murderer. In September of 2018, Ortiz began abducting sex workers on the streets of San Bernardo Avenue in Laredo, Texas and driving them beyond the city limits where he shot them in the head. In all, Ortiz murdered three women and one transgender individual with a female persona. Only because a fifth victim managed to escape was Ortiz caught before he could find more victims. Angered by the failure of local authorities to crackdown on crime, his goal was to cleanse the streets of Laredo. Ortiz now faces the death penalty upon conviction. His story is shocking and frightening, especially since he is a trusted authority figure. The psychology of this murderer is not, however, unique. Understanding men like Ortiz shines a light on why they do what they do and how predators are able to able to garner the trust of others.
The typical response to news of this kind is disbelieve and outrage. As a member of law enforcement, the likes of Ortiz are viewed as protectors. When the misdeeds of a law enforcement official are discovered, it is unsettling, because all people afford law enforcement and other authority figures a certain level of trust. Even those who with negative views of authorities believe there are limits to what even the most corrupt officials will do. Psychological screening is also used to help keep disturbed individuals out of law enforcement. The simple truth, however, is that positions of authority both attract individuals who are likely to abuse authority and empower them to do so. Where the stereotypical view of a mentally unstable individual or closest murderer is an anxiety-ridden, neurotic mess, the most dangerous people are fully in control of their mental faculties. Many are sociopaths or deeply compartmentalized thinkers, which means they are able to process their impulses, emotions, and thoughts separately. Their impulses do not interfere in their intellectual decisions. Many are abusive, which means they seek unbalanced control over others and their communities. For these reasons and more, they thrive in positions of power.
Unfortunately, society tends to be very lazy when it comes to public service. People, or at least Americans, like to either elect or hire officials to do jobs then just expect the jobs to be done without any issues. People place blind trust in public servants, In doing so, they create a breeding ground for predators like Ortiz. People join law enforcement for a variety of reasons, but the fact that someone is part of law enforcement does not mean he, or she, has evolved beyond the worst human traits. Quite frankly, humans are predators by their nature. Society just shapes our thoughts and actions, so we learn to act in a civilized manner. People are, however, socialized to varying degrees. Unfortunately, it is easy to overlook the fact that law enforcement and other authority figures fall on the same spectrum as all humans. We have a habit of assigning superhuman expectations to authorities instead of recognizing their fallacies. Humans need boundaries to ensure they do not indulge their darker and self-serving impulses. Those who can handle power learn to ensure limits are imposed on their own behavior; whereas, those who abuse power dismantle the institutions that place limits on their actions or they find oversight vacuums.
Where police and other law enforcement abuse their authority, whether it involves murder, extortion, or simple tariff infractions, there is an oversight vacuum being exploited by someone acting on his, or her, self-serving impulses. It is an example of abuse. In the case of border patrol agents, there are the normal oversight vacuums as well as those associated with the fact they are dealing with illegal immigrants who have no Constitutional protections and little legal recourse when they are abused by agents. It is a perfect environment for predators, which cultivates the predatory instincts of humans. The military also provides an environment that cultivates the predatory instincts of people and offers oversight vacuums. In addition, it establishes a strict cultural framework where people are expected to behave a specific way and expected to socially punish those who do not conform. Given Ortiz viewed his victims as diseased and disposal, his actions can be rationalized as those of someone trying to protect his community from an unwanted threat. He was disinfecting his community of diseased individuals.
Ortiz probably targeted sex workers, who are almost always victims of the sex trade themselves, due to some psychosexual fixation or misplaced blame for the actions of their clients, but he certainly seems to believe he was doing his community a public service. From an outside perspective, he was likely just indulging his animal instincts to respond to an offensive situation with aggression and violence then rationalizing it. His position as a border patrol agent gave him the power to act on his aggressive feelings toward those he viewed as undesirables, but it was not enough. He acted outside of the Law, because he felt he had the moral authority, i.e. he rationalized away the cultural boundaries preventing him from acting on his animalistic instincts, and the social obligation to defend his community. The Ortiz story involved murder, but his rationales can also be seen in the actions of many politicians, national security officials, and countless other individuals. Indulging in personally gratifying, yet socially unacceptable behavior, is justified as long as it can be rationalized as a public good. Being a border patrol agent, Ortiz did not enjoy the privileges elites use to limit their culpability, so he now faces public scrutiny and justice. The Ortiz story is an extreme example of what happens when oversight vacuums are allowed to exist, yet his unchecked fall from grace is mirrored in the stories of countless other authority figures.
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