Local News

Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 05:54 PM

Legal claim filed in police shooting of informant

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The tranquil setting of the Four Points Sheraton on California Avenue was disrupted early on the morning of Sept. 16 when a shooting occurred between two men — one of them a police informant — and Bakersfield Police. The informant and a second man were killed and two officers were injured.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

The family of a man who was working as an informant for law enforcement when he was shot and killed by Bakersfield police outside the Four Points Sheraton Hotel has filed a claim for damages against the city.

The claim, a required prelude to a lawsuit, was filed Friday on behalf of the parents and five children of 34-year-old Jorge Ramirez, who died Sept. 16 following the shootout on California Avenue.

Ramirez was unarmed. He was apparently caught in a gunfight between several Bakersfield police officers and the fugitive he was ostensibly trying to help them apprehend, 32-year-old Justin Bryan Harger. Harger fired at police, striking Officer Daniel Brewer, who was hospitalized but released a few hours later.

Police returned fire, killing both the fugitive and informant.

The case, which is potentially worth millions, caught the attention of high-profile Los Angeles civil and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, whose client list has included former Congressman Gary Condit, singer Chris Brown and actress Wynona Ryder. Geragos agreed to represent the family, he told The Californian last month, because the case cried out for scrutiny.

"Something about it just didn't quite make sense," Geragos said.

The claim was filed in seven parts, each in the name of the seven family members, including daughters Alyssa Ramirez, 15, and Victoria Ramirez, 13; sons Anthony Ramirez, 18; Justice Ramirez, 17 months; and Jorge Joel Travis Ramirez, who was born some five weeks after the death of his father.

Ramirez's parents, Jorge and Teresa Ramirez, are also named as claimants.

Bakersfield City Attorney Ginny Genaro said Tuesday the claim has been received and that it will be processed in the usual manner.

"Given the publicity, it's not unexpected," Genaro said.

The claim contends that police were aware that Ramirez was an informant working with them, and that they knew he was in the car with Harger. Damages or injuries listed on the claim include violation of civil and constitutional rights, wrongful death, loss of familial relationships, love, comfort and support.

Besides the city of Bakersfield and other potential targets of a likely lawsuit, five officers are named as "persons causing injuries," including Brewer, Rick Wimbish, Ryan Vaughan, Jess Beagley and Chad Garrett.

Geragos, who has litigated more than 300 trials in his decades-long career, said such lawsuits can benefit communities because they shine the light of public scrutiny on government activity.

"To my mind, trials are about getting the community to understand and hold (people) accountable. They are a public service."

But opponents of Geragos are not so generous.

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who has gone up against Geragos on many occasions, told the Californian in November that while Ramirez's death was "tragic and unfortunate," it was Harger's reckless and criminal activity that caused Ramirez's death.

"The blame," Cooley said, "ultimately goes back to the guy who initiated the gunfight."

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