Family Says Killing Is no Cure for Depression
FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - A California sheriff's deputy needlessly Tasered and then shot a man to death after his father called 911 seeking help for his son's depression, the family claims in court.
Parents and two brothers of the late George I. Ramirez sued Stanislaus County, its sheriff's department, Sheriff Adam Christianson, and Deputy Art Parra Jr. in Federal Court.
George Ramirez, the father, says he called 911 on April 16, 2012, seeking help for his son. Ramirez says in the complaint that he told the 911 operator that his son was depressed, but never said that the family was in danger or that a crime was in progress.
Deputy Parra responded, finding the father changing a headlight and the mother indoors doing housework. The family says Parra asked about the son's whereabouts, but did not ask for details regarding his condition or why the family called 911.
Parra found Ramirez on the couch watching television, unaware that his family had called 911. Parra confirmed his identity and placed him under arrest by ordering him to stand up and turn around, according to the complaint.
"In the process of standing up and complying with orders, Ramirez asked Parra why he was under arrest and if he could see his credentials," the complaint states.
"Parra refused to respond and again ordered Ramirez to turn around, demanding Ramirez put his hands behind his back.
"Ramirez complied with the orders of Parra.
"Parra then demanded Ramirez to put his hands closer together behind his back.
"Ramirez turned around and asked Parra in a calm, non-threatening manner to identify himself.
"At this time, and without providing any warning, Parra withdrew his Taser gun from his holster and deployed two darts into Ramirez's chest and activated the Taser. Ramirez fell to the floor.
"Ramirez fell to the floor."
Ramirez stood up after being Tasered, dazed and confused, but still non-violent, the family says in the complaint. Parra warned Ramirez that he could shoot him, the complaint states.
"Ramirez raised his arms and said 'Shoot me.'
"At this time, Parra withdrew his firearm from his holster and shot four bullets at Ramirez.
"Parra was approximately eight feet away at the time he fired four shots at Ramirez, and three bullets struck Ramirez.
"Ramirez was approximately 5' 11" but weighed only about 120 pounds.
"Plaintiffs believe that Parra was physically much stronger than Ramirez.
"At no time was Ramirez armed or in the vicinity of a weapon. Ramirez did not threaten Parra's safety or engage in any conduct that would cause a reasonable person to believe that Ramirez intended to threaten or harm Parra or anyone else, or to flee or otherwise attempt to avoid Parra. Ramirez did not commit any crime in Parra's presence."
While Ramirez lay bleeding out on the living room floor, Parra did nothing to help him, the family says. In fact, he prevented the family from going to him.
"Approximately five minutes after the shooting, George and Mercedes Ramirez were held at gunpoint in the living room by an unknown deputy sheriff who arrived on scene. They had not threatened anyone, and there was no basis whatsoever to point a loaded weapon at them or to prevent them from helping their son.
"Other sheriff's deputies arrived on scene, none of whom rendered any first aid to Ramirez. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department has a policy to not render aid if it appears that an individual, shot by a member of its department, will likely die without aid," the complaint states.
An ambulance arrived nearly 40 minutes later and took Ramirez to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Meanwhile, deputies had arrested the rest of the family and interrogated them at department headquarters while officers ransacked the home, according to the complaint.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department told the Modesto Bee that Parra went to the Ramirez home after a report of a family fight, but has declined further comment on the shooting. The family filed a $61 million claim against the county in October 2012, which officials rejected.
"Anything that results in death or bodily harm is a tragic event," Stanislaus County Counsel John Doering told the Bee. "We are investigating to make sure the county did everything it could to make sure the safety of the public was addressed."
Doering told the Bee the $61 million claim - $15 million for damages and $10 million to $12 million for four surviving family members - was excessive.
"When you are talking about a $15 million claim, it's hard to imagine there is any reality in that number," Doering said.
The Ramirez family calls Parra's actions, and the lack of action from other Stanislaus County deputies, "completely uncalled for and an abuse of power."
"We called law enforcement to see if we could get help for him and we didn't get it," Ramirez's father told the Turlock Journal. "Instead, he shot him."
The family is represented by Michael S. Warda of Turlock.