District Attorney Will Not Press Charges Against Police Officer In 2019 Shooting

Despite "serious concerns," the San Mateo District Attorney's Office said Friday it would not bring criminal charges against a San Mateo police officer who fired more than a dozen shots at two women suspected of retail and vehicle theft in the past year .

In a letter to San Mateo Police Chief Ed Barberini, San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that while he questioned officer Juan Ramirez's actions in the case, he did not find it likely that a jury would favor him The violation of the two women would be criminally responsible last September.

According to a prosecutor's investigation, Ramirez, a six-year veteran of the San Mateo Department, was on patrol on the evening of September 28, 2019 when he spotted an unoccupied white Chevrolet sedan with missing registration tabs and a front license plate.

The car was parked in a disabled parking space in front of Macy & # 39; s in Hillsdale Mall. Ramirez also noticed several items of clothing on hangers in the vehicle, but no shopping bags.

A search for the sedan's license plate revealed that the license plate actually belonged to an Anaheim-registered Honda vehicle, leading Ramirez to suspect it had been stolen.

After inquiring with the department's plain clothes Crime Reduction Unit, Ramirez found that two women were getting into the car and driving south on El Camino Real.

Ramirez motioned the vehicle to stop, but the driver, later identified as 30-year-old Rickark James of Newark, Delaware, accelerated away from him and turned north on 36th Avenue towards El Camino Real.

Ramirez and Crime Reduction Unit officers followed the limo down Hillsdale Boulevard and then into the cul-de-sac of Hillsdale Court.

Ramirez and another officer, Joshua Gatti, blocked the limo at the end of the cul-de-sac by placing their patrol cars side by side on the street.

According to the investigation, Ramirez watched James start accelerating on him and Gatti to hit them, causing Ramirez to shoot nine laps into the limo.

When the limo stopped briefly, Ramirez walked up to it and circled behind it as James moved towards him. Ramirez fired another eight rounds into the limo, telling investigations he was ready to "get my legs broken".

Gatti told investigators that while hearing Ramirez shoot the vehicle, he never saw the shooting and was unable to observe the threat Ramirez perceived.

The limo stopped at 532 E. Hillsdale Court. At that point, officials approached the vehicle and found James and 27-year-old Taleah Johnson of Philadelphia inside, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

Both women were taken to Stanford University for medical treatment for their wounds. James suffered "significant injuries" to the lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, nerves and bones in both arms.

James was treated for four to six gunshot wounds and eventually discharged, but lost full use of her right arm. Investigators were not made aware of the extent of Johnson's injuries.

Investigators discovered that James rented the sedan near Los Angeles International Airport on September 26, 2019 and the Honda stole the license plate before heading to Northern California.

Several stolen items were recovered from the vehicle, including from shops in Hillsdale Mall.

Investigators suggested that due to the perceived threat posed by the vehicle striking him, Ramirez was following standard training and instruction for police officers on the use of lethal force.

David Blake, an expert on police violence and a graduate student in performance psychology at Grand Canyon University, with whom investigators worked to review the shooting, believed that Ramirez 'increased stress levels in his actions and the actions of others University officials could have influenced scene.

"This may partly explain why Officer Ramirez did not use the generally taught tactic of staying behind available cover and issuing orders to suspects during high-risk traffic stops such as the one under consideration," the prosecutor wrote in their report.

John Warren, the chief inspector of the district attorney's Bureau of Investigations, said the district attorney will not bring charges against James or Johnson in the case.

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