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BAILEY — Dozens gathered Friday evening to remember and celebrate the life of 28-year-old Jonathan Ramirez, who died at the hands of Nash County sheriff’s deputies outside his home in February.
“Jonathan was fun-loving, wise and kind,” his fiancée, Olivia Lamm, told the crowd inside the church on Maudis Road in rural Nash County. “He always taught me to put others first. By helping others, you truly find who you are.”
She said Jonathan was a reflective listener who cared and loved his family, friends, coworkers.
“Rarely did he meet a stranger,” she said.
Lamm and members of Ramirez’s family said they’ve relied on their faith during the difficult and dark time. During the vigil, many wore T-shirts that read, “Justice for Jonathan ‘Jony’ Ramirez.”
Deputies who said they were responding to a possible sexual assault on Feb. 9 fatally shot Ramirez. Nash County sheriff’s Sgt. John Winstead, Deputy Stan Ricks and Detective Taylor Neal responded to the early morning 911 call, sheriff’s officials have said.
The deputies, who are back on duty, will not face charges in connection to the incident, the district attorney’s office told the Rocky Mount Telegram in mid-May.
Authorities say Ramirez refused to follow deputies’ instructions and pointed a rifle toward them, at which time the deputies opened fire. Ramirez sustained gunshot wounds and died as a result of his injuries.
The incident unfolded outside Ramirez’s home in the 1200 block of Maudis Road northeast of Bailey.
Ramirez’s relatives have disputed the sheriff’s office’s claims.
“Six months ago on this date, our beloved son and friend to hundreds of people was gunned down by the Nash County Sheriff’s Department,” Ramirez’s father, Jose, told those in attendance during Friday’s service, including members of the North Carolina NAACP. His wife, Francisca, was also by his side as he spoke. “Our entire life, our entire family was changed forever.”
Jose Ramirez claimed that deputies trespassed on private property, rushed across the family’s front yard and positioned themselves in a way where his son could not see who they were. He said Jonathan was “deer-blinded” — he couldn’t see who was confronting him.
“Justified, they say?” he continued. “How can it be justified when they violated the very oath they swore to serve and protect? Jony was not a criminal. He was a happy guy. He was never sad. He always had a word of encouragement for everybody.”
Only one of at least eight body and dashboard cameras was turned on during the February deputy-involved shooting that left Jonathan Ramirez dead.
A State Bureau of Investigation official testified several months ago that there was no body camera footage for Winstead, and although the footage was taken at the scene, the cameras worn by Ricks, Neal and Lt. William Murphy were not turned on until after the shooting occurred.
Another deputy who was dispatched to the scene did have his camera on during the shooting. In addition, none of the patrol car dashboard cameras was operating, according to previous reports. One car was not equipped with a dash camera, another was broken and the third was not turned on because the office did not activate his patrol lights, which automatically turn on the camera.
“It’s such a shameful loss of life,” Jose Ramirez said through tears. “I don’t think I will ever get over it. Justified, they say? They lied first, covered it up second. They don’t care about the facts. There’s not a day I don’t cry for Jonathan.”