Local News

Tuesday, Oct 08 2013 03:04 PM

One of two men killed in shootout with police was an informant

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A body is removed from the rear parking lot of the Four Points Sheraton on California Avenue early Monday morning Sept. 16 as part of the investigation into a shooting that killed two men and injured two police officers. Evidence markers could be seen near the shooting area.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A body is removed from the rear parking lot of the Four Points Sheraton on California Avenue early Sept. 16 as part of an investigation into a shooting that killed two men and injured to police officers. One of the men killed was a police informant. Evidence markers could be seen near the shooting area.

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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 JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield police confirmed Tuesday that one of the two men killed in a shootout with police Sept. 16 outside the Four Points Sheraton Hotel was a police informant.

Police Chief Greg Williamson said Jorge Joel Ramirez, 34, was an untested informant who placed himself in a volatile situation by failing to provide police with crucial information, including that suspect Justin Bryan Harger was armed with a handgun and wearing a wig. Williamson said Ramirez also told police he and Harger would be traveling in a Jeep when in fact they were in an SUV, and he didn't indicate who was driving the vehicle.

The chief said Ramirez's handler -- the officer in charge of an informant -- made follow-up calls that night trying to get more information, but Ramirez would say he had to go and hang up.

The chief said Ramirez had tried to help out police on one previous case, but no arrests were made.

Ramirez's girlfriend, Breanna Reyes, said the family was declining comment regarding the newly released information.

Ramirez called officers the evening of Sept. 16 and said he knew the whereabouts of Harger, who was wanted in connection with a shooting. Police had been searching for Harger for three weeks after hearing from the U.S. Marshals Service that he may be in the area.

Police decided to try for an arrest despite not getting much information from Ramirez after his initial call. Williamson said they made the right choice.

"Mr. Harger was a very dangerous individual," he said. "Had officers not followed up they would have been derelict in their duty."

Police drove to three different locations that night trying to meet up with Harger and Ramirez. Williamson said police finally heard from Ramirez that he and Harger were headed to the Four Points Sheraton at 5101 California Ave.

Williamson gave the following account of what happened next:

Harger drove the SUV into a parking lot at the Sheraton. A waiting police cruiser pulled in behind the SUV.

Officers shone a light into the vehicle, revealing the two men inside. The passenger, Ramirez got out of the vehicle. The problem: Officers didn't know who was the informant and who was the suspect.

In photos previously examined by the officers, both Harger and Ramirez had hair shaved close to the scalp. But that night, one of the men in the SUV had long hair. Officers would later discover it was a wig Harger wore as a disguise.

The officers -- Daniel Brewer and Rick Wimbish -- ordered Ramirez to get back in the vehicle. Ramirez refused. Brewer and Wimbish approached him.

Ramirez turned and put his hands in front of him near his pants, and at that moment Brewer was shot in the face. Brewer realized the shot did not come from Ramirez, and both he and Wimbish shot in the direction of the gunfire.

In the resulting confusion, the officers lost track of the suspects and each other. Wimbish took shelter behind the police cruiser while Brewer fired as he backed up 20 to 30 feet behind and to the right of Wimbish.

More officers arrived. Brewer was taken to a local hospital. A total of five officers fired their weapons during the incident: Brewer, Wimbish, Ryan Vaughan, Jess Beagley and Chad Garrett.

Williamson said Ramirez and Harger were both shot several times.

The criminal and administrative investigations aren't complete, and Williamson said he doesn't have an exact description of who shot whom and what each arriving officer knew about the situation.

Williamson said both Harger and Ramirez had drugs in their possession. Tests for whether either man was under the influence at the time of the shooting have not been completed.

The bullet that struck Brewer traveled from the edge of one eye along the side of his head, leaving a long scar but not penetrating his skull. He was released from the hospital later the morning of the shooting.

Williamson said the criminal investigation will probably last a couple more weeks, and the administrative investigation should conclude by the end of the month.

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