The City of Santa Ana and its police department will pay more than $1 million to get a pre-trial settlement with the minor daughter and son of an unarmed, innocent North Carolina visitor killed by police in 2010.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker approved the wrongful death settlement a month before the scheduled trial in Santa Ana's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Andres Ramirez, the 21-year-old father who was born in Santa Ana but moved out of state at 7, was walking in a neighborhood just after 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2010, when police gang officers Michael Heitmann and Frank Gutierrez ordered him to stop.
Ramirez, who'd done nothing wrong, complied and was standing with his hands up when one of the officers approached from behind and fired a fatal bullet into the back of his head, according to the lawsuit. He was pronounced officially dead the next day.
In the aftermath of the killing, police officials told reporters that Ramirez had tried to attack them with knife and had been shot in the chest.
But according to Ramirez family attorney James F. Rumm, the police version of event was a "blatantly false" attempt to cover up the illegal killing.
In his lawsuit, Rumm--a lawyer with Orange-based Douglas, Lopez & Rumm--claimed that the "intentional [and] reckless killing" represented a "far reaching and overly aggressive enforcement" policy by the Santa Ana Police Department.
Based on the settlement it's obvious that Santa Ana officials feared that a future Orange County jury might award Ramirez's children a substantially larger financial award.
According to the terms of the settlement arranged through a mediator, the two surviving children will collect $800,000 and Rumm will get $206,520 in lawyer fees and costs
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Rumm originally demanded $20 million as a settlement at the outset of the case.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the Orange County District Attorney's office, tells me that prosecutors are reviewing whether criminal charges should be filed against the officers.
Ironically, officers Heitmann and Gutierrez had been featured on "America's Most Wanted" as brave heroes months before the Ramirez killing.