STANISLAUS COUNTY -- Family members of a Keyes man who was killed in a deputy-involved shooting in April have filed wrongful death claims against Stanislaus County, each seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages.
The claims filed Oct. 11 charge that deputy Art Parra Jr. used unreasonable deadly force when he shot George "Jorge" Ramirez after responding to a 911 call to the family's home in Keyes. The family alleges that the deputy and Sheriff's Department did not render medical attention to Ramirez after he was shot.
According to the family, the 32-year-old Ramirez had been suffering from mental health problems. He died at Doctors Medical Center at 5:45 p.m. on April 16, an hour and 10 minutes after the shooting.
A San Francisco legal firm filed a claim on behalf of Ramirez, seeking $15 million in damages. Other claims were filed on behalf of his parents, George Ramirez Sr. and Mercedes Ramirez; Jorge's 14-year-old brother, Moses; and another family member, Isaac Ramirez; each seeks $10 million to $12 million.
Such claims usually are a precursor to litigation. County supervisors are expected today to refer the matter to the risk management division.
Monday, the Ramirez family referred The Bee to a legal representative, who was not available. A firm called Cook Collection Attorneys filed the claim documents on the family's behalf.
County Counsel John Doering said his office will be talking with the Sheriff's Department about the family's allegations.
"Anything that results in death or bodily harm is a tragic event," Doering said. "We are investigating to make sure the county did everything it could to make sure the safety of the public was addressed."
Doering said he expected the county will reject the claims because of the dollar amounts sought a total of $61 million.
"When you are talking about $15 million a claim, it's hard to imagine there is any reality in that number," Doering said. If the family members were to bring lawsuits in court, the complaints from different plaintiffs probably would be consolidated into one lawsuit, he said.
In April, sheriff's officials said that Parra responded to the home after a report of a family fight.
According to the family's account, detailed in the claims, George Ramirez Sr. attempted to talk with Parra when he responded to the 4:20 p.m. 911 call to explain in more detail what had happened. But Parra did not talk with him about the reasons for the call, the claims said.
After the deputy was given Jorge Ramirez's location inside the home, he entered and found Ramirez in the family room, sitting on the couch watching TV. He was not armed, the claims said.
According to the family, Parra advised Ramirez that he was under arrest and told him to stand up and turn around. Ramirez asked the deputy why he was under arrest and to identify himself and show credentials.
"Deputy Parra refused to respond and again ordered (Ramirez) to turn around, this time demanding that he also place his hands behind his back," the claims stated.
When Parra demanded that Ramirez place his hands closer together, Ramirez turned around and again asked the deputy to identify himself, the family said.
The claims said that Parra then used a Taser on Ramirez, causing him to fall.
"After falling, George stood up, dazed and confused. Deputy Parra withdrew his firearm from its holster and shot four bullets, three of which struck (Ramirez)" in the abdomen, chest and thigh, the claims said.
The family charges that Parra did not allow George Ramirez Sr. or other family members to give aid to Jorge after he was shot. Other deputies who began arriving within five minutes of the shooting did not render aid either, the claims said. An ambulance crew gave medical attention to Ramirez about 35 minutes to 40 minutes after the shooting, the claims said.
According to the claims, George Ramirez Sr., Mercedes and Moses Ramirez witnessed the shooting and, as a result, have suffered extreme emotional distress and health problems. Moses ran outside the home and collapsed on the street after the shooting.
George Ramirez Sr. suffers from severe anger, depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and nightmares, and has a pounding heart, nausea and muscle tension when reminded of the incident, his claim stated.
Family members told The Bee in April about Jorge Ramirez's mental health struggles, saying it appeared that he occasionally heard voices, had struck his father during one episode and had been prescribed medication.
Parra, who has worked for the Sheriff's Department for six years, was placed on paid administrative leave as the shooting was investigated.
Sheriff Adam Christianson said the district attorneys office is still investigating the incident.
The incident occurred less than a week after a gunman opened fire on two sheriff's deputies and a civilian from inside a fourplex on Chrysler Drive in Modesto, killing deputy Bob Paris and locksmith Glendon Engert. The suspected shooter died in a fire that engulfed the home.
The same day, April 16, a Turlock officer shot and killed an armed suspect while responding to a report that several suspicious people appeared to be casing a neighborhood. Police said the male suspect "presented" a handgun before the officer shot him.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.