It’s been almost five months since 26-year-old Robert Ramirez of Oxnard was pronounced dead at St. John’s Regional Medical Center. In June, an acquaintance of Ramirez called the police, requesting help because Ramirez was apparently suffering from a meth overdose. When officers arrived, they allegedly tried to calm him, but it resulted in a scuffle. When he was finally subdued and cuffed, they realized he wasn’t breathing. In this week’s feature story, “Jumping the gun,” Ron Bamieh, the attorney for the Ramirez family, questioned the delay in announcing the results. Such toxicology reports usually take no longer than six weeks. A call to the medical examiner indicated that any official announcement would come only after further investigation by the Oxnard Police Department, which could be in a week or maybe months. It’s suspicious because if Ramirez died of an overdose, the results should already have been released.
While the actions of the officers on the night of Ramirez’s death are still under investigation, the story of another tragic incident hit local media and the hearts of frustrated and concerned Oxnard residents. Last month, 21-year-old Alfonso Limon, allegedly an innocent bystander, was shot to death during a shootout in La Colonia between two suspects and officers who had tried to do a routine traffic stop, but the suspects led a chase and then stopped the vehicle and ran on foot while shooting at officers. The Latino activist group Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective of Oxnard sent out a video that allegedly showed that Limon begged for his life from the ground and officers executed him. The video, which has been posted to the VCReporter website, is a dizzy display of frantic neighbors, officers yelling at whomever to get down, and shots are heard being fired. The next day, a television news report showed the walls of a nearby business riddled with bullets — at least 40 — and nearby residents claimed that Limon was surrounded by six officers when they shot him to death. Ballistic reports have not been released on either the bullets that killed Limon or the bullets found in the walls of the business.
Both the Ramirez and Limon cases are under investigation by numerous agencies: the Oxnard Police Department is conducting investigations on both cases, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office will conduct a routine criminal investigation on both cases, a request has been made to the FBI to look into the Ramirez incident, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the Limon incident, according to news reports. Furthermore, Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams announced that she wants the Office of Independent Review, a civilian oversight group created by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, to do independent investigations of the two incidents. The Office of Independent Review, which is made up of six attorneys, worked on the case of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man who died during a confrontation with Fullerton officers last year. The group faulted the officers in Thomas’ death. Oxnard City Council would have to approve the $70,000 to $100,000 expenditure to hire the group.
It’s a scary prospect of corruption and brutality within the ranks, if the accusations should prove accurate. Whether accidental or intentional, both deaths might have been preventable. With so many investigations under way, there is hope that any who have been corrupted by the power of their authority will be rooted out. Unfortunately, though, those who are truly getting away with murder are those who committed crimes in the first place. As Williams put it when it came to the Limon case, the suspects had control over the situation the whole time and the officers were responding to their threats. If the two suspects hadn’t fired at the officers, Limon might still be alive. Also, if Ramirez had decided not to consume methamphetamine, his death, too, might have been prevented. In the end, however, we as a community and as a society decided that we must default to trusting the police with our safety and our lives. We hope for a complete and timely conclusion to these investigations. The truth is of paramount importance to us all.