Homeless man says he was acting on behalf of landlord in home invasion

A man accused of forcing his way into a New London apartment in February with a piece of metal rebar had been living under the porch of the Garfield Avenue home and may have been attempting to help the landlord collect rent that was past due, according to a court document.

Hector Ortega, a 30-year-old Guatamalan native with no certain address, has been held in lieu of $50,000 bond since New London police charged him Feb. 13 with home invasion, first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, carrying a dangerous weapon, second-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree criminal mischief.

According to a police report, a woman called 911 after Ortega shoved his way into the apartment at 49 Garfield Ave., struck the male tenant with a 24-inch metal bar and broke several items. The woman said Ortega had been living under the porch.

The victim, who had a bloody mouth, a swollen lip and abrasions on his arms, told police he managed to get on top of Ortega and drag him out of the apartment. The metal bar that Ortega allegedly used in the attack was found on the lawn, according to police, who said they also recovered two 24-inch machetes from a bag belonging to Ortega.

Ortega told the police he worked for the landlord, who allowed him to sleep under the porch. He said the landlord told him the tenant had not paid rent and that he went to the apartment to “fix the problem.”

Police said they spoke to the landlord, who said she didn’t know anything about the man living under the porch.

Ortega made his first appearance Tuesday in the New London courtroom where major crimes are heard. Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Ortega said he was unsure about his date of birth. The judge appointed attorney Kevin C. Barrs to represent Ortega and asked Barrs to verify his client’s identity. Barrs said Ortega is from Guatemala, attended school only to the third grade and has been working since.

Ortega’s next court date is May 7.

— Karen Florin

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