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Family files wrongful death claim after deputy kills mentally ill son

POSTED November 1, 2012 4:20 p.m.

On April 16, the Ramirez family placed a 911 call with the hopes that law enforcement might assist them in placing their mentally ill son into a treatment center. Instead they were witnesses to their son’s death when a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department deputy fired three shots into him.

Six months later the Ramirez family is still reeling from the tragic events that transpired at their Keyes residence and have submitted a wrongful death claim to Stanislaus County that requests $61 million for the death of 32-year-old George Israel Ramirez.

The claim was submitted by the San Francisco-based legal firm Cook Collections Attorneys on behalf of the deceased Ramirez, his parents George and Mercedes Ramirez, his 14-year-old brother Moses Ramirez, and brother Isaac Ramirez.

The claim alleges that despite Deputy Art Parra being made aware of Ramirez’s mental state, he used unreasonable deadly force and that the sheriff’s department hastened his death by not allowing medical aid to be rendered.

A claim of this type is usually a precursor to a lawsuit.

The events leading up to Ramirez’s death began to unfold in the weeks and months prior to the incident. For some time Ramirez had been dealing with mental health issues, and while he had good periods, he had recently fallen into a depressive state over his lack of employment, according to his family.

The day of the incident Ramirez’s state had worsened and the family decided to contact law enforcement with the hope that they might order an evaluation for Ramirez at the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health Center.

“We called law enforcement to see if we could get help for him and we didn’t get it,” George Ramirez said in an interview with The Journal a day after his son’s death. “Instead he shot him.”

The sheriff’s department account at the time stated they were responding to a call of a family dispute, though George Ramirez said there was no altercation.

George Ramirez said he told Deputy Parra about his son’s mental state, but that “Parra did not respond verbally or otherwise engage George V. Ramirez in any discussion about the reason for the call,” according to the claim.

Parra found Ramirez sitting unarmed on a couch in the living room watching television. The claim states Parra asked Ramirez to confirm his identity and then advised him he was being placed under arrest. Ramirez was complying with Parra’s instructions until the deputy tried to place him in handcuffs, at which point Ramirez requested to see Parra’s credentials.

The claim states Parra ordered Ramirez to place his hands closer together behind his back, which is when Ramirez turned around and again asked Parra for his credentials.

“At this time, Deputy Parra withdrew his taser gun from its holster and deployed two darts from the taser into the chest of George Israel Ramirez,” the claim states. “After falling, George stood up, dazed and confused, Deputy Parra withdrew his firearm from its holster and shot four bullets, three of which struck George Israel Ramirez.”

Ramirez was suffered gunshot wounds to the chest, the abdomen, and the thigh. Ramirez was taken by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center, where he died at 5:45 p.m.

According to the sheriff’s department, Parra called for back-up after using his Taser and that while additional deputies were en route Parra reported shots had been fired.

The incident remains under investigation by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

The claim alleges none of the responding deputies rendered medical aid to Ramirez and that they prevented the family from helping or comforting him. The claim states aid was rendered to Ramirez by American Medical Response personnel “approximately 35 to 40 minutes after the shooting.”

George and Mercedes Ramirez both claim they were held at gunpoint in the living room, about 30 feet from where their son lay injured and bleeding. Moses Ramirez, who was present for the shooting, ran from the house and collapsed in the middle of the street, according to the claim.

The claims state the family has experienced extreme emotional and physical trauma from the incident, including, heart problems, nausea, anxiety, nightmares, loss of sleep, depression, post-traumatic stress, and “self loathing and blame as a result of calling for assistance from the sheriff’s department.”

The claims have been referred to the county’s risk management division.

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