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Sheriff: Nash County man’s shooting death justified

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Top law enforcement officials say they understand a rural Nash County family’s frustration after deputies shot and killed a man earlier this year, but still contend his own actions led to his shooting death.

Jonathan Ramirez, 28, died at his home Feb. 9. Last week, six months to the day since the fatal shooting, family and friends gathered to mourn his passing, celebrate his life, call attention to his death and seek justice.

During an Aug. 9 prayer vigil, Ramirez’s father Jose said his son wasn’t a criminal and had been unjustly gunned down by deputies.

The case is closed as far as District Attorney Robert Evans is concerned.

“After the unfortunate death of Mr. Ramirez, we consulted with and received a report from the SBI, as is customary,” Evans said. “We reviewed and discussed the content of the report with the assigned SBI agent. Our conclusion was that there was insufficient evidence supporting the filing of criminal charges arising out of this tragic event. The reasons underlying our determination were discussed with the Ramirez family and representatives in a private meeting. Other than a determination of possible criminal liability, it is not the role of this office to consider or characterize the actions of others in these situations.”

Swirling around in Ramirez’s system at the time of his death were alcohol, cocaine, caffeine, cough syrup, a sleeping aid, nicotine and the veterinary drug levamisole, according to a toxicology report completed by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh.

Zachary O’Neill, a pathologist, reported finding in Ramirez’s clothes a “clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance.”

The amount of ethanol in Ramirez’ system shows a blood-alcohol content of twice the legal driving limit in North Carolina.

Ramirez died of three gunshot wounds to his torso, according to his autopsy.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said the limited number of center mass shots fired shows restraint on his deputies’ behalf.

Stone placed Sgt. John Winstead, Detective Taylor Neal and Deputy Stan Ricks on administrative leave after the incident, but they returned to work within a couple of months.

Stone said the situation is very unfortunate.

“My heart goes out to the family,” Stone said. “And I encourage the public to cooperate with law enforcement.”

Stone said his office has three core values: Honor, compassion and diligence.

“We are working drug cases diligently,” Stone said. “Drugs wreck homes and devastates families. My deputies are working to keep Nash County safe.”

The night of the shooting, deputies responded to a woman who claimed Ramirez had sexually assaulted her. She said he had drugs and an AK-47 in his truck. The deputies followed Ramirez to his home on the 1200 block of Maudis Road near Bailey.

Ramirez allegedly pulled a long-barrel firearm from his backseat. Authorities have never released information on the type of rifle Ramirez allegedly possessed.

Stone said his deputies were forced to defend themselves and shoot Ramirez.

Stone acknowledged the deputies didn’t turn on their body cameras until after the incident. He said his men were in a life-or-death situation, had both hands on their firearms and didn’t think about recording the encounter.

Evans said as with most situations where death results from use of firearms, his office’s sole responsibility of his office is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence a crime occurred, requiring the filing of criminal charges against the person or people responsible.

In officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, a determination is made after consulting with the SBI and reviewing an investigative report. The SBI written report becomes a part of the internal investigative file and is not considered a public record, Evans said.

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