City Council honors Modesto police personnel for bravery in rescue of woman shot in home

02/12/2014 6:52 PM

02/13/2014 1:05 PM

During a period of chaos one night last month, eight officers and two sergeants of the Modesto Police Department remained calm and focused as they rescued a woman from the home in which she had just been shot.

The gunman still inside, police quickly engineered a plan. They had no time for second guessing when the man began shooting through the door of the bathroom in which the victim had locked herself.

The officers and sergeants were acknowledged Tuesday at the Modesto City Council meeting, where Police Chief Galen Carroll showed a video of the Jan. 5 incident recorded from the lapel camera of Sgt. Robert Rayna.

Police were dispatched to the 1100 block of Cannes Avenue in west Modesto just after midnight when a woman called from the home to report that she had been shot in the leg by her boyfriend. Dispatchers could hear shots being fired in the background while on the phone with the woman, Carroll said.

When officers arrived, they found another victim, a man who had been shot in the chest, as well as four children, whom they quickly evacuated from the area. The gunman’s girlfriend, however, remained in the house, locked inside a bathroom with no window from which to escape.

For several minutes, the officers tried to negotiate with the shooter to persuade him to surrender. But he again started shooting, this time through the bathroom door. She was hit four more times, Carroll said.

When the officers and sergeants heard the gunshots, they rushed the house and threw a light and sound distraction device inside.

The chief gave The Bee an account of the rescue operation: “Prior to making entry, various officers were assigned different tasks; some were evacuating other houses, some were dealing with the other people who were shot and getting them to (emergency workers),” he said. “Officers were using the PA to try and call the suspect out. The team of guys who went in were designated as an emergency action team to either take the suspect into custody should he come out or make entry if he started shooting again. Once inside, they again were trying to call the suspect out, but he did not comply.”

Police found and rescued the woman, and the gunman retreated to a back bedroom of the house and would not respond to requests to surrender, Carroll said. “Several hours later,” he said, SWAT officers entered the residence and found the man in the master bedroom, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.

He was identified as Victor Salazar Ramirez, 30.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the following were recognized for their bravery: Sgt. Robert Reyna, Sgt. Brian Kleiber and Officers David Lewellen, Gerald Bohanan, Rommel Cuellar, Mark Starr, Joseph Lamantia, Evan Swearingen, Mark Ulrich and John Wesley.

“I read that story in the newspaper and now I see what you were standing against,” Councilman Bill Zoslocki told the group. “You guys are our heroes, you saved lives by that action. ... I just want to say thank you very, very much for doing what you did that day, and not only that day but when you step out there every day.”

“Because of their successful efforts, four children have a mother alive today,” Carroll said.

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