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Immigrant in U.S. illegally was released before Ohio crime spree in which he's charged

Immigrant in U.S. illegally was released before Ohio crime spree in which he's charged
This booking photo released by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department shows Juan Emmanuel Razo-Ramirez, 35, suspected in a killing and other crimes in Ohio. (Lake County Sheriff's Department)

A Mexican man living in the U.S. illegally had been stopped by Ohio authorities and released weeks before a crime spree in which he's suspected that left one woman dead, officials said.

Juan Emmanuel Razo-Ramirez, 35, is accused of attempting to rape a 14-year-old girl, shooting a woman in the arm, killing another woman in her home, then getting in a shootout with police in Lake County, Ohio, on Monday.

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Razo-Ramirez, who has no criminal record, had been stopped on July 7 by Lake County sheriff's officials. They released him after speaking with federal immigration officials.

"As far as I can tell, and from what I heard him admit, he says he's undocumented — he's not legally in the United States," Lake County Prosecuting Atty. Charles Coulson said in an interview Wednesday.

Painesville Municipal Judge Mike Cicconetti appeared furious at Tuesday's arraignment. "He's here illegally? And they didn't take him? ... I can't set a bond high enough." He set bond at $10 million.

Razo-Ramirez pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. More charges are expected to be filed.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would pursue deportation after the trial, and after Razo-Ramirez serves any sentence that may be imposed.

The case comes almost four weeks after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle on San Francisco's embarcadero July 1. The man charged in that case, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, 52, is an immigrant in the country illegally, and a seven-time felon who has been deported to his native Mexico five times.

He was shielded from another deportation by San Francisco's status as a "sanctuary city."

The facts of the Ohio case are significantly different.

Lake County deputies said they stopped Razo-Ramirez July 7 for "moping around" and acting suspiciously near a residential area, and he admitted to officers that he was in the country illegally, said Lake County Sheriff Daniel A. Dunlap.

But when the deputies conducted a conference call with Border Patrol agents, Razo-Ramirez did not admit being in the country illegally, officials said.

"Without such a determination, the agents had no legal basis to file a detainer to hold the subject," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Razo-Ramirez had no apparent criminal record and the deputies could find no evidence he had committed a crime, Dunlap said, so they let him go instead of trying to hold him until immigration agents could interview him in person.

"We don't just trump up charges on people so that we can hold them," Dunlap said, adding that he didn't buy into stereotypes about immigrants. "Here's where I stand on this: All cops aren't dumb dolts who shoot mentally ill people carrying knives, and not all Latinos are bad people."

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Columbus-based immigration attorney Ken Robinson called officials' handling of the July 7 stop "the new normal" for national immigration policy.

Since the Obama administration relaxed deportation policies for certain immigrants in November, Robinson said, "you're really going to have a hard time getting deported" without committing a serious crime, an assertion disputed by the administration and immigrant rights advocates.

Officials say Razo-Ramirez's crime spree began with the attempted rape of his 14-year-old niece in Concord, Ohio.

Then, officials said, he shot a 40-year-old woman on a bike path, wounding her in the arm, and fatally shot 60-year-old Margaret Kostelnik in her nearby home.

Another resident called police to say Razo-Ramirez was pointing a shotgun at the caller's son in his backyard. When police responded, the suspect apparently fired at officers, who returned fire, officials said. Razo-Ramirez was unhurt, but surrendered, officials said.

His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

matt.pearce@latimes.com

Follow @MattDPearce for national news

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