Jury Confers $4.5 Million On Family Of Highland Man Slain By Deputies In 2018

A federal jury yesterday made a determination that San Bernardino County must pay $4.5 million to the family of Juan Ramos, formerly of Highland, who was fatally shot by Sheriff’s Sergeant Gary Wheeler on July 22, 2018.
That afternoon, a Sunday, the temperature in Highland in mid-afternoon had reached or exceeded 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the sheriff’s department, at 3:52 pm, the sheriff’s dispatch center received a call for service regarding a report of a reckless driver speeding through neighborhood streets in the vicinity of Olive Street and 13th Street in Highland.  Deputies responded and located a white Ford Crown Victoria being driven by a male subject, later identified as Juan Ramon Ramos, 32. In a release after the shooting, the department maintained Ramos was “driving without regard for the public’s safety, endangering himself and other motorists by running red lights and nearly hitting other vehicles. A deputy attempted a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle at a gas station [and] the suspect drove away when asked to exit the vehicle. The deputy witnessed Ramos hold up a box cutter prior to fleeing the gas station. Ramos refused to yield and led deputies on a pursuit after he narrowly missed colliding with other motorists. Eventually the pursuit ended back near Olive Street/13th Street.”
According to the department’s version of events put out in the immediate aftermath of the incident, “Deputies attempted to de-escalate the situation” but “Ramos did not comply with commands and refused to exit the vehicle. After a brief standoff, Ramos exited the vehicle armed with the box cutter and ran from deputies.”
Ramos had returned to a residence in the the 26700 block of 13th Street owned by his aunt and uncle.
According to the department’s narrative, “Ramos continued to ignore deputies’ commands and did not comply with their orders to peacefully surrender. Deputies deployed less than lethal bean bags, striking the suspect. Deputies also deployed a Taser, striking the suspect; the less than lethal and de-escalation techniques proved ineffective in getting the suspect to comply. Ramos jumped a fence approaching a group of people with the box cutter in his hand.”
At that point, Sergeant Wheeler discharged his service sidearm, hitting Ramos in the back.
“Fearing for the safety of the citizens, a deputy involved shooting occurred,” according to the department.
Ramos was transported to St. Bernardine’s Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased at 5:24 p.m.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, which routinely clears law enforcement officers of wrongdoing with regard to shootings of civilians that take place within its jurisdiction, reviewed the circumstances of Ramos’s death. The district attorney’s office generated a report of that review, released in 2020, in which it was concluded that Wheeler’s action was a justifiable and legal use of deadly force.
Ramos’s family was represented by attorney Dale Galipo.
Galipo was able to call upon multiple witnesses – members of Ramos’s family including his cousins – who testified that Ramos was not attempting to attack anyone, was not showing hostile intent and was not close enough to use the box cutter on anyone when Wheeler felled him with the fatal shots. At trail there was testimony to the effect that Ramos’s cousins told deputies that he was not dangerous or violent and represented no threat to them.
The department maintains that the shooting was entirely justified.
Under the verdict, Ramos’s family will receive $4.5 million for his wrongful death.
The office of San Bernardino County Counsel had no comment on the verdict.

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