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Victim Wants Federal Investigation of Attempted Robbery by Deputy : Crime: The man who was beaten by an off-duty San Diego officer says the department has overlooked evidence and failed to ask him to identify second assailant.

July 06, 1991|MARK PLATTE and JOHN M. GLIONNA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

ENCINITAS, Calif. — The victim of a beating by a San Diego sheriff's deputy called Friday on federal authorities to investigate the case and determine whether other deputies were involved in the plan to rob his home.

Sheriff's Deputy Michael Stanewich was shot to death Wednesday by a fellow deputy called to the home during the robbery.

Two days after the off-duty Stanewich forced his way into Donald Van Ort's Encinitas home at gunpoint, Van Ort said he still had not been asked by sheriff's investigators to identify an accomplice who arrived with Stanewich at his door before fleeing.

Van Ort said he recognized the accomplice as one of several deputies who arrived at his home in May searching for narcotics. Stanewich was one of them, he said, contending that the pair returned to empty a safe in the house of cash and jewelry.

In the process of robbing the home, Stanewich bound and handcuffed Van Ort, put a pillowcase over his head and doused it with lighter fluid. He also bound and gagged Van Ort's 82-year-old grandmother. While Van Ort was on the floor, Deputy Gary Steadman entered the house, warned Stanewich to stop, and fired three times. Stanewich was hit twice.

Van Ort and his attorney, August Anderson, said Friday that they had found new evidence at the scene that homicide detectives had overlooked. Anderson said a broken vial containing an unidentified substance and a matchbook Stanewich carried were turned over to sheriff's detectives Friday.

"Maybe some independent agency should look over the shoulders of the Sheriff's Department," Anderson said. "They've already missed what could be crucial evidence at the scene. I just think it's important to be extra safe. We don't want anything planted. We want to go by the book so that no evidence is missed. To have the Sheriff's Department doing this investigation is like having the fox guarding the henhouse."

Anderson said she had asked the FBI to take over the investigation and she planned to contact the U.S. attorney's office. Spokesmen for both agencies said they had not been contacted.

Because Van Ort fears remaining at his Encinitas home, Anderson said he was staying elsewhere.

Sheriff Jim Roache defended his department's handling of the case and said he had two teams of homicide officers working "almost continually" on the case since the shooting Wednesday morning.

"We have a few leads but wouldn't call them tremendously substantial," he said. "My objective is to successfully conclude a criminal investigation. I need to identify a suspect and get enough evidence to sustain a criminal complaint. I can't do that yet."

Although Van Ort had not been asked to try to identify the person who accompanied Stanewich, he would be asked as soon as possible, Roache said.

Van Ort is not receiving protection from the Sheriff's Department, Roache said, because "there is no demonstrated reason he should."

At a press conference Friday, Anderson suggested that Stanewich may have known Julie Malone, a former girlfriend of Van Ort's whom Van Ort was charged with assaulting in 1989. Through her attorney, Malone denied knowing the dead officer or having any connection to the Sheriff's Department.

Times staff writers Barry M. Horstman and Ray Tessler contributed to this report.

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