Autopsy released in deputy shooting incident


Staff Writers

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A sexual assault suspect shot dead by Nash County deputies in early February had a cocktail of illicit and over-the-counter drugs in his system, according to his autopsy report obtained late last week by the Telegram.

Jonathan Ramirez, 28, died on Feb. 9 of law enforcement-inflicted gunshot wounds at his Bailey residence. He had alcohol, cocaine, caffeine, cough syrup, a sleeping aid and nicotine in his system, according to a toxicology report completed by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh.

Also present in Ramirez’ bladder was levamisole, a potentially hazardous veterinary drug often used by drug dealers to cut cocaine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Found in Ramirez’ clothes was “a clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance,” according to the autopsy report signed by Medical Examiner Zachary O’Neill.

The amount of ethanol — 190 mg/dL — in samples taken during Ramirez’ autopsy indicate a blood alcohol content of twice the legal driving limit in North Carolina. Symptoms of such a high level of intoxication include confusion, disorientation, impaired balance, slurred speech and personality and behavior changes that may make a person appear angry and antisocial, according to information from the state’s Public Safety Department.

Ramirez died of three gunshot wounds to his torso. Two bullets struck Ramirez in the chest and one hit him in the abdomen, according to his autopsy.

The three deputies involved in the shooting were cleared last month by District Attorney Robert Evans, solicitor for the 8th Prosecutorial District which includes Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties.

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

Sgt. John Winstead, Deputy Stan Ricks and Detective Taylor Neal were placed on administrative leave after the incident but returned to work within a couple of months. The three men have more than four decades of law enforcement experience between them.

“Mr. Ramirez wasn’t acting like a reasonable person,” Stone said. “My deputies acted to defend themselves, save lives and go home at the end of their shift. They were dealing with a suspect accused of rape and having guns and drugs.”

In the early hours of Feb. 9, a woman reported that Ramirez had sexually assaulted her. She said she was following him and he had drugs and an AK-47 in his vehicle. Responding deputies followed Ramirez to his home on the 1200 block of Maudis Road in Bailey. The deputies confronted Ramirez as he left his vehicle.

Ramirez is said to have pulled a long-barrel firearm from his backseat. It remains unclear what type of rifle he actually possessed.

Deputies were forced to defend themselves and shot Ramirez, Stone said.

Ramirez’s family members told reporters at the time of his death that they believe deputies were looking for someone else and Ramirez was gunned down in a case of mistaken identity.

Stone said he is empathetic for the family, but an internal investigation determined the deputies handled the situation properly.

Stone said they did not turn on their body cameras until after the shooting because they were in a life-or-death situation and did not think about the cameras.

“They arrived to a volatile situation and had two hands on their weapons,” Stone said. “The body cameras we have take three seconds of holding down a button to turn on. The deputies were thinking about the dangerous situation, not their body cameras.”

Stone said the unfortunate event is a reminder of the importance of the daily battle against guns and drugs in Nash County.

“We’ve had more than 50 overdose deaths this year,” Stone said. “It’s a fight for our community.”

The State Bureau of Investigation completed a report on the incident, which has not been released by the District Attorney’s Office.