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Shooting Report Favors Officer; He Isn’t Talking

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although the evidence indicates a police officer probably was justified when he shot and killed a mentally ill man during a struggle in June, prosecutors stopped short of giving a definitive ruling on the shooting because the officer who fired the deadly rounds refused to talk.

According to a 16-page district attorney’s report released Tuesday, Ventura Police Officer Chris Davis “appeared to be justified” when he shot and killed 29-year-old William Anthony Ramos on June 14, as Ramos wrestled with another officer.

“There is no evidence to suggest that this is anything other than a justifiable homicide,” said Jim Ellison, a senior deputy district attorney who handled the investigation. “But without [Davis] stating why he fired, we cannot say conclusively that this was justifiable.”

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Davis reportedly refused to talk to investigators on the advice of his attorney, Ellison said.

“Personally, I don’t agree with the advice that the police officer’s attorney gave him,” he said. “Especially in a situation like this that appears to be pretty straightforward. . . . It does leave things kind of hanging there.”

Authorities said Ramos was wrestling with another Ventura officer--Chuck Watson--and allegedly grabbing for the policeman’s gun when Davis shot him three times in the stomach with a .45-caliber handgun.

Ramos died three hours later at the hospital.

After the shooting, two of Ramos’ sisters said the tall and gaunt man was not a significant threat to officers, despite his history of mental illness. They questioned why police had to kill their brother.

An attorney representing the family said the district attorney’s conclusion was not a surprise.

“The most significant thing about the report is that it does not exonerate Officer Davis,” said David Shain, who is representing the family. “The issue of whether [Davis] believed his or Watson’s life was in danger has not been resolved because he refused to speak.”

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Family members could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Shain said they were still “shocked and disturbed by what occurred that day,” but had not yet decided whether they would sue the Ventura Police Department and Davis.

“There are things that we know that were not part of that report,” Shain said. “We’ll decide in the next week or so what we plan to do.”

Shain would not say what information did not appear in the report, but he did not dispute any of the details of the investigation, including a litany of bizarre behavior by Ramos in the hours leading up to his death.

Some of Ramos’ encounters with police include a 1994 incident in which Ramos was found on the beach plucking feathers from a dead sea gull.

When officers tried to talk to him, he pulled out a loaded gun, waved it in the air and then ran into the Holiday Inn, the report said. After his arrest, Ramos said the officers were KGB agents, that he wanted to get the Fuehrer’s attention and that he got the gun from Stalin, according to the report.

In 1996, Ramos was found in an abandoned strawberry field at 3 a.m., screaming and claiming he was a Nazi named Kevin Canine. He was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with amphetamine-induced psychosis, according to the report.

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Before his last encounter with police, Ramos had stopped taking medication for paranoid schizophrenia, and according to an autopsy was under the influence of methamphetamine and amphetamine during the fatal encounter with police.

At least 11 civilian witnesses corroborated much of the officers’ description of the incident. Witnesses described Ramos as acting erratic with a wild look as he talked to Officer Watson. Watson had stopped Ramos in front of the 101 Drive-In on Telephone Road after reports that he was running in and out of traffic. One witness described Ramos as going through “Kung Fu” moves in the street.

Watson and several other officers had stopped Ramos several times over the previous 24 hours, and had repeatedly asked him if they could take him to mental health for care, but he refused to go, according to the report.

When Watson stopped Ramos in front of the drive-in, he again asked Ramos if he could take him to mental health so he could get medication for his condition, the report said. Officer Davis stood back while Watson searched Ramos. During the search, Ramos jumped backward into Watson and knocked him into bushes.

The two began to wrestle and Ramos allegedly grabbed for Watson’s weapon, and the officer called out, “He’s got my gun” or words to that effect, according to the report.

That is when Davis shot Ramos.

Investigators did not find Ramos’ fingerprints on Watson’s gun, though one of the snaps on his holster was unfastened, the report said.

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