Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Andres Ramirez has not quite decided what to do with his handcuffs. He may frame them and hang them on his wall. Now, when asked, he holds them up with outstretched arms, as he would a trophy fish.
And he beams.
The highlight of his 4 1/2-year law enforcement career occurred Saturday, when he was the first officer to handcuff and arrest the man suspected of being the Night Stalker. Their chance encounter on an East Los Angeles sidewalk, where the suspect had already been beaten into submission by irate citizens, is believed to have ended a seven-month crime spree that, near its end, terrorized an entire state.
The suspect in custody, Richard Ramirez, 25, and the man who arrested him share their last name (they are not related), their ethnic heritage and even their age. Richard Ramirez's arrest in the 3700 block of Hubbard Street took place four blocks from where Deputy Ramirez grew up on Downey Road.
Call it ironic or call it fate.
Seemed Slightly Humored
On Sunday, the young deputy seemed slightly amused by the media attention lavished upon him for helping culminate one of the most intense manhunts in California history. In an episode filled with heroes, he scoffed when asked if he deserved any credit.
"I'm no hero," he told reporters with genuine modesty. "My job was already done. All I had to do was handcuff (the suspect) and tell him, 'You're under arrest.' The citizens did all the work."
The deputy said he was on routine patrol early Saturday when he received a report of a fight, possibly including a man with a gun, in the 3700 block of Hubbard Street. He soon found Richard Ramirez surrounded by four angry men who had chased and beaten the suspect for allegedly trying to steal a parked car 200 yards away.
Deputy Ramirez said he thought that the beaten man resembled a photograph of the Night Stalker suspect he had in his patrol car. However, the deputy said, he thought little about the possibility that the man was the same person wanted in connection with 16 killings.
The deputy slapped the handcuffs on and patted down the suspect, finding neither weapons nor identification. He asked the suspect his name--"Ricardo Ramirez" was the response--and said nothing further to him.
"He was very tired, and he was hurt and mumbling," Deputy Ramirez said. "It appeared that he was relieved. I never drew my weapon. I never had to."
A crowd of 40 to 50 civilians gathered. So too did several Los Angeles police officers who had tracked the suspect to where he was finally subdued, just beyond the city limits. As the suspect was placed in a city police car, the crowd grew hostile and began to advance, Deputy Ramirez said.
"People were pointing fingers, saying, 'It's him; it's the Night Stalker,' " the deputy said. "I told them to back off," and they did. The police car drove away with the suspect and the deputy's handcuffs.
It was not until hours later, after Richard Ramirez's fingerprints were taken at the Police Department's Hollenbeck station, that Deputy Andres Ramirez--whose wife, brother and brother-in-law are police officers--learned of his role in law enforcement history.
That's when he got his cuffs back.
"I may bronze them," he said Sunday with a smile. "But for now, I'm just going to admire them for a while."