HUNTINGTON PARK — Nearly two years have passed since Acacio Ramirez died of injuries he suffered while being arrested by police who intervened in a domestic dispute.
Two of the officers involved have been fired, one shortly after the Ramirez arrest, the other last March for apparently unrelated reasons. And a $6-million wrongful death lawsuit against the city is pending.
But the district attorney's office is still undecided as to whether criminal charges will be filed. The delay drew criticism last week from lawyer Peter M. Williamson, who filed the Superior Court lawsuit against the city and former officers Peter McGuire and Roy Segura on behalf of Ramirez's two children.
"There's no possible reason for not making a decision," said Williamson, who has been meeting with the city's attorneys about a possible settlement in the civil case. "I'm perplexed."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Ferns, who heads the district attorney's special investigations division, said he expects a decision soon.
"It's not a low-priority case," Ferns said last week. "It's a case that was given a complete investigation and analysis and is now being reviewed by the assistant D.A. (Curt Livesay)."
In the wrongful death lawsuit, Williamson accused McGuire and Segura of "unreasonable and excessive use of deadly force" against Ramirez, 32, who also went by the name Jose Robles.
McGuire's attorney, Richard A. Shinee, denied any wrongdoing by his client and said the district attorney's office should have closed its investigation.
"Given the fact that there's really no evidence against him, they should have cleared (McGuire) a long time ago," Shinee said.
Segura could not be reached for comment.
It was about 7 p.m. on Sept. 15, 1987, when Judith Quan and her son walked into the Huntington Park police station and asked officers to help her remove her things from the Seville Avenue apartment she shared with Ramirez. She and Ramirez had been living together for about a year and had had one of their frequent fights, she told police.
Segura drove Quan and her son home and was joined by two other officers--McGuire and Mike Craven.
Quan gave the officers permission to enter the apartment. Ramirez was outraged and shouted at the police to leave, according to statements by Quan and the officers.
The officers told Ramirez to be quiet, but he continued to argue. An altercation ensued and Ramirez pushed and punched Craven, according to the officers' reports.
McGuire, Craven and Segura struggled to restrain Ramirez. During the fracas, Segura struck Ramirez several times on his back with a flashlight, the officer said in an arrest report. McGuire said in his report that he hit Ramirez with his fists to try to subdue him. Ramirez was then handcuffed and placed in Segura's patrol car and taken to the Huntington Park police station.
McGuire met Segura and helped take Ramirez into the station.
In his initial report, Segura said Ramirez was uncooperative and had to be physically removed from the police car and carried into the station.
"He was placed inside the booking cell and he was no longer yelling," Segura wrote.
Segura then left on another call.
McGuire wrote in his report that Ramirez "was still yelling at (officers). Once on his feet (Ramirez) refused to walk and had to be carried into the station by his underarms . . . (Ramirez) was left on the station's floor." McGuire also went out on another call, he said in the report.
Shortly after the two officers left, Lt. Stan Ramsey, the watch commander that night, heard Ramirez "making noise and observed him to move slightly," Ramsey wrote in a report. The lieutenant called paramedics after he went back into the cell a short time later and noticed Ramirez was breathing very shallowly. Ramirez was taken by ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, where he was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. Ramirez was brought to the police station less than two hours before, about 7:45 p.m., Ramsey reported.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office determined that Ramirez died from "blunt force body trauma" suffered when police restrained him. He had scrapes and bruises, and a partial fracture of the sternum. The autopsy report noted that the partial fracture was the kind "typically seen as a result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation," which was performed on Ramirez. The autopsy also revealed alcohol and cocaine in Ramirez's body at the time of death.
"A blow to the abdomen or solar plexus is noted to be one of the causes of death by reflex cardiac failure," deputy medical examiner Christopher Swalwell reported. "In this case the heart may have been more susceptible to such a reflex because of increased irritability associated with cocaine intoxication and the presence of microscopic heart disease."
The day after Ramirez's arrest, Segura approached Detective Barry Crissman, who was investigating the death.
In a report of their conversation, Crissman noted that Segura appeared to be "very upset and emotionally drained."