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Granite Shoals councilor charged with criminal mischief in H-E-B incident

Granite Shoals Councilor Phil Ort

Marble Falls police charged Phillip Ort, a Granite Shoals City Council member, with criminal mischief. Police say he intentionally scratched a car in the Marble Falls H-E-B parking lot in October. Burnet County Jail photo

Granite Shoals City Councilor Phillip Ort was arrested Wednesday, Dec. 1, on a charge of criminal mischief for allegedly “keying” a car, according to the Marble Falls Police Department. The 59-year-old turned himself in to the Burnet County Jail and was released later the same day after posting bond. 

According to an arrest warrant affidavit completed by Marble Falls Police Sgt. Aaron Garcia and signed by Municipal Judge Cheryl Pounds, Ort faces a Class A criminal misdemeanor charge for intentionally scratching the door of a Mercedes Benz parked Oct. 20 in Marble Falls H-E-B lot. 

Marble Falls police responded to the initial call the day of the incident, and Garcia took over the investigation a few days later. The investigator obtained H-E-B parking lot video surveillance footage of the incident. 

In the affidavit, Garcia describes a man twice making contact with the vehicle’s driver-side door, once while returning a shopping cart to the store and again while walking back from the store. 

In the surveillance video, it appears the suspect checks the Mercedes Benz’s license plate, according to the affidavit. Both the Mercedes Benz and the suspect’s vehicle look to be parked in marked handicapped-accessible spaces.

During his investigation, Garcia asked the vehicle’s owner if she had forgotten to hang her handicapped parking placard on her rearview mirror, but she told the officer it was in place.

Garcia obtained more H-E-B surveillance footage on Nov. 4. He spotted the suspect in the video at about 1:15 p.m. Oct. 20 at the south entrance of the store with a woman. The woman takes her purse out of the shopping cart and goes inside the store, while the man takes the cart to the entrance area. 

The officer posted an image of the suspect on the Marble Falls Police Department’s Facebook page Nov. 5 and asked the public’s help in identifying the man. That same day, two Granite Shoals residents contacted Garcia and said the man in the image was Ort, according to the affidavit. The officer then was able to link the suspect’s vehicle by a license plate to Ort and further identified the man through photos and distinguishing features.

The owner of the Mercedes Benz said she did not know Ort, according to the affidavit.

Ort contacted Garcia on Nov. 6 saying he’d seen his photo on the department’s Facebook page and came into the police department nine days later for an interview. According to the affidavit, Ort confirmed he had been at H-E-B on the day in question and recalled the Mercedes Benz. He denied damaging the vehicle, claiming “a little old lady” was near the car and “looked like she was going to key the car.” 

Garcia pointed out he had video surveillance that countered Ort’s claim, but the Granite Shoals councilor stood by his story, according to the affidavit. 

Ort was elected to Place 6 of the council in November 2020. His current term runs through May 2022.

If convicted on the Class A misdemeanor charge, Ort could face up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.

editor@thepicayune.com

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