Affidavits in shooting case still secret
August 24, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Prosecutors oppose unsealing documents that could reveal why law enforcement arrested two men then released them from jail for lack of evidence in a police officer shooting case.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson said that he would indefinitely oppose a motion to unseal search and arrest affidavits because there is still “an active and sensitive investigation.”
He said he also would oppose it to protect witnesses in the case, especially since Sergio Esteban Ramirez basically flaunted being a “gang-banger.”
Glenwood Springs attorney Ted Hess said the documents should be unsealed to see what led to what he’s called the wrong arrest now that charges aren’t being filed.
Beeson wouldn’t discuss any details of the investigation.
“Sooner or later we’re going to get whoever did this,” he said. “We have a very competent investigative team. We’ve got a very competent sheriff, and we’ve got people who are concerned about people who have been shot,” Beeson said.
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Hess and Ramirez said they doubted if law enforcement would now be able to find the real shooter.
Ramirez, 20, was arrested Aug. 5 on $1 million bond and released Wednesday evening. Mauricio Villa Garcia Pena, 20, was arrested Aug. 9 on $500,000 bond. He was released Thursday morning, according to the Garfield County Jail. He couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Beeson said in court that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to file charges. He and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said not filing charges was a strategic decision to buy more time and that it did not signify a failure of any kind.
Hess said he suspects law enforcement must have tried to connect Ramirez to the crime with the shot police officer’s identification or a tip from Anthony Villegas, an “extremely unreliable” witness. Authorities said Villegas knows something about the shooting, but won’t say what he or anyone else has told them.
Villegas’ arraignment hearing Thursday for violation of probation in a theft case was continued until Sept. 13, according to the Garfield County Combined Courts office. Hess and some members of Ramirez’s family wonder if Villegas told authorities Ramirez shot the cop after arguments between Ramirez and Villegas.
“I can’t speculate on the speculations of Mr. Hess,” Beeson said, adding that it would be unethical to discuss details of any evidence. “It’s frustrating to me to read what people are saying and not be able to respond.”
Beeson said he couldn’t comment on who charges might be filed against in the future, but didn’t rule out Ramirez and Garcia Pena.
“No one is off our radar screen,” he said.
Beeson said the searches and arrests were done legally and reasonably. But Ramirez and some family members said they were unfairly targeted by law enforcement who destroyed property unnecessarily and used excessive force.
“We’re not cowboys,” Beeson said. “We don’t shoot from the hip, not withstanding the fact that people like Ted Hess and people of his ilk like to represent us in the press that way to get their own publicity.”
Norma Ruiz, Ramirez’s mother, said the family was still discussing whether or not it would pursue legal action.
“Actually we are planning on talking to my lawyer about that,” Ramirez said. “My name was burned on the streets, you know, in the paper, everywhere.”
The seriousness of the suspected crime – first-degree attempted murder of a police officer – called for the no-knock arrest warrants, Beeson said.
“When you have a no-knock warrant, the judge obviously knows there’s going to be some damage,” Beeson said. “These are dangerous situations. We view them as dangerous people. We take every legal and reasonable precaution we can and we make no apologies for the Constitutional efforts we have made to this point.”