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FULLERTON : Man Pleads Not Guilty in Officer's Death

November 11, 1994|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN

A La Mirada man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter in the killing of a La Habra police officer.

Marco Villegas Ramirez, 51, entered the plea Thursday in Municipal Court in Fullerton.

"He is upset about what has happened," said his attorney, Joseph A. Nappa. "He is very remorseful."

Ramirez is accused of being drunk when he allegedly ran a red light on Halloween night and smashed into La Habra Police Officer Michael Osornio's cruiser, demolishing it and pinning Osornio inside. Osornio, 26, died an hour after the collision.

Police allege that Ramirez had been traveling at approximately 60 m.p.h. and his blood-alcohol level later registered at .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Ramirez was arrested on suspicion of murder, but prosecutors later decided to charge Ramirez with the lesser offense of gross vehicular manslaughter. Evidence from the car crash did not indicate that Ramirez acted with malice, prosecutors said, which is a requirement for a murder charge. Police Capt. Terry M. Rammell has said he agrees that murder could not be proved.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Teresa Hicks called the killing tragic: "Not just because the officer is deceased now, but also because the defendant might be a perfectly good person at heart, but by his actions of drinking and driving and taking this young officer's life, he has ruined his own life."

A manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of four to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Osornio joined the Police Department 14 months ago and was engaged to be married. He was the first officer in the department to be killed on duty.

Ramirez's bail was set at $50,000. He is due to return to court on Nov. 29.

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