ICE Must Face Wrongful Death Suit Involving Stolen Gun

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge Friday refused to dismiss a wrongful-death lawsuit against the United States from the parents of Antonio Ramos, who was killed by a gun stolen from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

Antonio Ramos, 27, of Emeryville was shot to death in late September 2015 as he finished an anti-violence mural on a freeway underpass in Oakland. The murder weapon, a Glock 9mm pistol, had been stolen from an ICE agent’s rental car parked in downtown San Francisco, in an area “well know for auto thefts and smash-and-grabs,” according to his parents’ 2017 lawsuit.

Also stolen from the car, after being left in plain sight, were three loaded magazines, two badges and handcuffs.

Marquise Holloway, then 20, of Oakland was charged with Ramos’ murder.

In refusing the United States’ motion to dismiss, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James called the suspect “a well-known gang member and convicted felon.”

James’ case summary contains alarming statistics about lost and stolen federal guns.

“The Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, lost 289 firearms during Fiscal Years 2006-2008 — in other words, one every four days,” the judge wrote. “ICE and the Customs and Border Patrol accounted for 243 of these lost firearms; of those, 179 (74%) went missing due to an agent’s or officer’s failure to properly secure the weapon.[A]ll 179 losses may have been prevented had the officers properly safeguarded their firearms.’” (Citations omitted to what James called the “well-pleaded allegations of the complaint.”)

James noted that the ICE agent did not follow policies and procedures to safe-keep the weapon, which the Office of Inspector General had called inadequate. And in the months before Ramos’ was murdered, “there was also the highly publicized killing of Kathryn Steinle on the San Francisco Embarcadero that was perpetrated with a government firearm stolen from a vehicle in the SOMA [South of Market Area] area of San Francisco.”

Given the negligent storage of the gun and ammunition, and the known crime problem in the area where the agent left them in an unlocked bag in plain sight, James found no reason to grant the government’s claim of sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claim Act.

She did, however grant its motion to strike the demand for a jury trial.

James ordered the defendant to answer the complaint by Feb. 23, and set a case-management conference for March 8.

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