A newly released report from the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office has cleared a Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputy of any wrongdoing in a 2012 shooting that ended the life of a mentally ill Keyes man.
The report comes just as the man's family moves forward with a lawsuit against the county seeking an unspecified amount in damages for the death of 32-year-old George Israel Ramirez on April 16, 2012.
The lawsuit brought by Ramirez's family and siblings was filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court in Fresno. It seeks compensation for emotional and physical distress and post-traumatic stress. A claim previously filed by the family with the county sought $61 million in damages.
In the lawsuit the family alleges that Deputy Art Parra, Jr. used unreasonable force in his encounter with Ramirez.
The report from the district attorney's office reached a different conclusion and found that Parra acted reasonably when confronted by Ramirez, who struggled with Parra over a Taser before he was fatally shot.
The Ramirez family contacted the Sheriff's Department on the day of the shooting because Ramirez was experiencing some mental health issues that the family could not handle on their own.
The department account at the time stated they were responding to a family dispute, but George Ramirez, the father of Ramirez, has stated there was no altercation.
The district attorney's report referenced the 911 call, which stated Ramirez had threatened his mother and needed to be taken to the Behavioral Health Center.
Parra was the first deputy to arrive at the home and found Ramirez in the living room. Parra said Ramirez was facing him with his arms to his side and his hands clenched so tight Parra could see the muscles tense.
According to the family, Ramirez was complying with the deputy's instructions until Parra tried to handcuff him.
The family said Parra shot Ramirez with the Taser when Ramirez turned and asked to see the deputy's credentials.
Parra told the District Attorney's office investigators that he pulled his Taser because of Ramirez's "aggressive stance, clenched fists, failure to comply with orders and the threat against his mother." He also said he called for backup on his mic, but that it didn't work and this left him feeling "isolated with no certainty that help was going to come," the report states.
The failure of the radio transmissions was verified through the recorded radio tapes, the district attorney's office said.
The family claims Parra shot Ramirez twice in the chest with the Taser and that Ramirez fell to the ground dazed and struggled to get up.
Parra's account to investigators states that when he pulled his Taser, "the mother and father began to struggle with each other and were bumping into" him. Parra told investigators Ramirez stepped toward him, saying Parra should "shoot him." Parra said he fired once and Ramirez fell to the floor and pulled the darts from his chest. Parra said he fired the Taser again and that Ramirez "fought through the effects" and tried to wrest the Taser from Parra.
"When Jorge Ramirez, Jr. grabbed onto the Taser, Dep. Parra had no other weapons to use except for his handgun and he could not wait for help to arrive," the report states. "Dep. Parra was the only law enforcement officer on scene and was dealing with an individual who did not respond to pain or fear. Dep. Parra believed that if Jorge Ramirez, Jr. obtained exclusive possession of the Taser, he (Parra) would be killed. Confronted with this imminent threat, Dep. Parra pulled his handgun and fired."
Ramirez suffered gunshot wounds to his chest, abdomen and thigh. He was rushed by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
The report confirms that Parra called for backup after using his Taser and that the shots were fired while other deputies were en route.
The district attorney's office investigation revealed Ramirez had threatened to cut and rape his mother that day. Two years prior the sheriff's department had been contacted about Ramirez assaulting his father with a baseball bat.
"Background investigation determined that Jorge Ramirez Jr. had a spiraling downward history of mental issues," the report stated.
The district attorney's investigation ultimately concluded Parra took reasonable steps when confronted with Ramirez's actions.
"The only question that this office must answer is, did the deputy reasonably fear for his life and was that fear objectively reasonable. The answer to this question is unarguably yes, allowing Dep. Parra to use deadly force" the report reads.
"The evidence leads to the conclusion Dep. Arthur Parra acted reasonably when confronted by Jorge Ramirez, Jr." the report continues. "The deputy tried to stop Jorge Ramirez by less than deadly means, but Jorge Ramirez, Jr. would not stop. The deputy had no choice but to use deadly force and he was justified in doing so. Under any analysis of the law, the deputy's conduct was legally justified and he used no more force than was necessary to stop Jorge Ramirez, Jr."