Cop-shooting suspect won’t face charges
GLENWOOD SPRINGS After being jailed since Aug. 5 on suspicion of shooting a Glenwood Springs Police officer, Sergio Esteban Ramirez is going home to eat his mother’s tostadas.He walked out of the Garfield County Jail Wednesday evening and hugged his mom up off her feet in a joyous reunion. Family members gave him a shirt to wear with the saying, “Just because I’m Mexican doesn’t make me guilty,” written on it with black markers.His plans?”Go home and work and support my lady,” he said. “Just like I was doing before.”The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office decided not to file charges against Ramirez. The 20-year-old Glenwood Springs man was released Wednesday afternoon after his arrest on suspicion of shooting a Glenwood Springs police officer.District Attorney Martin Beeson said law enforcement also was working to release suspected accomplice Mauricio Villa Garcia Peña, 20, of Silt.Ramirez said he didn’t know why authorities targeted him. He said he wasn’t worried charges would be filed against him in the future.”Me and my homeboy Flaco weren’t even close together that Sunday,” he said. “We were just doing our thing. And shooting a cop ain’t our thing.”Ramirez’s mother, Norma Ruiz, prayed for her son in church earlier in the day.”I thank God that there is justice in this world,” she said. “They wasted almost a month having innocent men in jail. When are they really going to do their job? I think they need to stop chasing bald people and Hispanic people.”Police-conduct claimsChristina Ruiz, a cousin with whom Ramirez was living at the Roaring Fork Inn, said the room was supposedly raided because they were drug dealers, but all that was found was a pipe carved out of an apple, and a bong.”They destroyed that apartment,” she said. “[The manager] never wants to see me again. … I thought when they do a [Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team] thing they at least had to have some kind of evidence.”The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, TRIDENT and the Glenwood Springs Police Department were involved in investigating the shooting. They arrested Ramirez at the Roaring Fork Inn on drug charges, and arrested him again later the same weekend on suspicion of the shooting after he had bonded out of jail.Christina Ruiz said she is staying with a friend because no one will rent her an apartment now. She and Norma Ruiz said they have pictures to prove that authorities tore out walls, destroyed pictures and blew up a door. Christina Ruiz said one officer cursed at her and threatened to have the social services department take her children. She sent her three young daughters to their father in Mexico because of it, and worries she won’t be able to get them back, she said. Norma Ruiz said she wished authorities would at least publicly apologize for ruining her son and her family’s reputation.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said the first entry was made after TRIDENT observed people “smoking dope” in front of the room and obtained a search warrant. A second entry was made after an arrest warrant was issued for attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer. It was a “dynamic entry” made without knocking due to the serious nature of the suspected crime, he added.”Our response was appropriate to the level of the case that was involved,” he said. “They can say what they want. I’m sure nobody’s pleased any time we do a raid. It’s not very pleasant when we kick their door down, handcuff people and search their house.”He said he did have concerns for the children due to the living conditions and since Christina Ruiz allowed people to smoke marijuana in their presence.Not enough evidenceBeeson said during the hearing for formal filing of charges that the investigation has not produced enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that he has the ethical obligation not to file charges.Beeson and Vallario wouldn’t comment while leaving the hearing on whether the charges might be filed in the future against either man, or if there were other suspects in mind, but said the investigation will come to fruition.”We’ve chosen at this point to buy time and to continue on with our own investigation,” Beeson said. “It signifies no failure whatsoever.””If anything is disappoints me, it’s that we were anticipating this case was going to move forward,” Vallario said. “We’re not there yet. We just have to delay it a little bit.”About 11 alibi witnesses were willing to testify that Ramirez couldn’t have committed the crime because he was with them at the Roaring Fork Inn the night of the shooting.Gang involvementNorma Ruiz said her son claims he is involved with the Surreños 13, or Sur 13 gang, but that she thinks locally it’s more of a “wannabe” thing. Sur 13 is a recognized gang originating in southern California. She said Ramirez has gotten in trouble with the law repeatedly for things like underage drinking and smoking marijuana, but he would never shoot at someone.Ramirez said his relationship with Sur 13 is “great,” but had nothing to say about it except “we are who we are.””Were they a gang in the sense that they plotted crimes?” defense attorney Ted Hess said. “Absolutely not. Did they sometimes get into trouble? Absolutely, yes.”According to court documents, Ramirez told a probation officer he had most recently worked for Labor Source, but Ramirez actually only worked there for one day in November 2006, according to the company.Anthony Villegas, 19, who authorities said knows something about the shooting, is scheduled for arraignment Thursday for violation of probation in a previous theft case. He hasn’t been accused of being involved in the officer shooting beyond allegedly knowing something about it.Hess and the Ruizes believe Villegas told authorities that Ramirez shot the police officer because of several disputes between the two including an unpaid tab at the Mr. Amigo restaurant in West Glenwood. Ramirez’s current court file should be unsealed now that charges aren’t being filed, Hess said.”Now is the time to look at what they found and why they used the reasoning they did to make these arrests,” Hess said. “Because a crime of this nature is so unusual in this area, you don’t see a seasoned response. You see law enforcement going overboard a little bit.”Ramirez said he was in the same cell with Garcia Peña, known as “Flaco,” and that they spent some of their 21 hours of maximum security lockdown time each day praying. He thought the incident was a sign to improve his life.”God put me in here for an eye-opener,” he said. “Me and Flaco, because we both know we were messing up.”Pete Fowler can be reached at email@example.com
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The steep Jail Trail that leads into downtown Aspen is getting a better grade to address safety concerns and make it easier for people to use.