For release on January 15, 2013
Supervising Deputy District Attorney
SANTA CLARA OFFICER LAWFULLY KILLED ARMED DRUNK DRIVER
Prosecutors have concluded that a Santa Clara police officer last year lawfully killed a highly-intoxicated man in a parked vehicle who was reaching for a handgun.
The 42-year-old driver, Jose Jesus Ramirez, reached for the loaded Colt .38 revolver despite repeated warnings from Officer Joshua Craig. At least one witness heard the officer shout at Ramirez three times to put his hands on his head just before the fatal shooting.
“Officer Craig had no way of knowing if Ramirez intended to shoot himself, shoot the officer or provoke the officer into shooting him,’’ according to the 18-page report. “However, the law is clear that an officer may reasonably use deadly force when he confronts an armed suspect in close proximity, whose actions indicate intent to attack.”
While on patrol around 10 p.m. on January 14th, 2012, Officer Craig pulled over a Toyota sedan with an expired registration sticker on the license plate. Immediately after the stop, Ramirez tried to exit the car. Officer Craig told him to get back in. When Officer Craig approached the car he saw no weapons, but did see signs that Ramirez might be intoxicated. However, Ramirez had been pulled over at his own apartment complex, so Officer Craig had decided to give him a warning and release him.
It was then that Officer Craig saw a revolver next to Ramirez’s leg. Despite repeated and loud warnings from the officer, who had now pointed his own weapon at the driver’s head, Ramirez slowly moved his right hand down toward the handgun. The driver responded at one point, “No speak English,” although he had already conversed in English immediately after the car stop. (A subsequent investigation showed that he spoke and understood the language well.)
Believing the driver was going to use the gun against him, the officer fired his weapon twice, killing Ramirez.
“Ramirez’s motive for moving the revolver to an easily accessible position and ignoring Officer Craig’s commands may never be known,’’ the report says. What is known, the report documents, is that he had a blood alcohol concentration more than four times the legal limit, a history of alcoholism and depression, and, over the past year, had lost his home, his job and girlfriend. One witness told investigators that, two weeks prior to the fatal shooting, a drunken and desperate Ramirez had shown him a single .38 bullet saying it was intended for “the one who misbehaves.”