More Information Comes Out On Luis Ramirez Killing.

Derrick Donchak, 18, Brandon Piekarsky, 16, and Colin Walsh, 17, have been charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez died on Monday from injuries sustained during the attack.

Derrick Donchak, 18, Brandon Piekarsky, 16, and Colin Walsh, 17, have been charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez died on Monday from injuries sustained during the attack.

Since last week, when three White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania were charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, more information has come out regarding the circumstances under which Ramirez was beaten to death. ABC News reports:

. . .

According to a police affidavit, the defendants and three 17-year-olds encountered Ramirez, 25, and a teenage girl in a park the night of July 12.

The youths goaded Ramirez and the girl, saying, “You should get out of this neighborhood” and “Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here,” documents said. After Ramirez and the girl began walking away, someone yelled an ethnic slur at him, court documents said. He responded, “What’s your problem?”

A fight ensued, during which police said Walsh punched Ramirez in the face. The victim fell and hit his head on the street, leaving him unconscious, after which Piekarsky kicked him in the head, police said.

All three suspects used ethnic slurs during the fight, which ended with Ramirez in convulsions and foaming at the mouth, authorities said. The attackers fled the scene; Ramirez underwent surgery but died July 14 of head injuries.

Piekarsky and Walsh were being held without bail, while Donchak was held on $75,000 bail.

Lawyers for Piekarsky and Walsh said their clients are not guilty and that there was no evidence to support the homicide charges. They also said they would try to have the case removed to juvenile court.

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after he was severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken by Ramirez's parter hours befored he died from injuries sustained during his beating.

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after being severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken just hours before Ramirez died from injuries sustained during the beating.

Roger Laguna, Walsh’s lawyer, said the police affidavit “pretty much describes chaos, and what you have then after the fact is somebody trying to sort through that and attribute certain acts to certain individuals.”

He said that although slurs might have been used, the fight was not motivated by ethnicity.

“I think any time there’s a fight and any time you have one ethnic group fighting another, there’s going to be racial slurs,” he said. “I’ve seen that since I was a kid on a playground 20 years ago, but they never called it ethnic intimidation until very recently.”

Frederick Fanelli, Piekarsky’s lawyer, said he is “surprised and disappointed” that his client faces a homicide charge, attributing Ramirez’s death to a “street fight that ended tragically.”

. . .

“A street fight that ended tragically?” That might be the understatement of the century. I suppose we’re expected to believe that Luis Ramirez’s death was just the result of a misunderstanding. Right. At least charges have finally been brought against these guys. Now let’s see whether the legal system, having failed to protect Luis Ramirez, will succeed in dispensing justice to the people who killed him.

Update on Luis Ramirez Killing.

Derrick Donchak, 18, Brandon Piekarsky, 16, and Colin Walsh, 17, have been charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez died on Monday from injuries sustained during the attack.

Derrick Donchak, 18, Brandon Piekarsky, 16, and Colin Walsh, 17, have been charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez died on Monday from injuries sustained during the attack.

Almost a full week after Mexican migrant Luis Ramirez was beaten to death in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, charges have finally been brought against three suspects. The Republican Herald reports that two teenagers have been charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault:

Two teens were charged with homicide in connection with the July 12 beating and subsequent death of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala in Shenandoah. A third faces other charges related to the incident.

Brandon Piekarsky, 16 and Colin Walsh, 17, both of Shenandoah, are incarcerated in Schuylkill County Prison after being arraigned before Magisterial District Judge David A. Plachko, Port Carbon on Friday morning.

Piekarsky and Walsh are both charged with one count each of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, simple assault, and ethnic intimidation.”

Read the full aticle here.

Eyewitnesses say at least six boys took part in the beating that cost Ramirez his life, so I’m curious to see if any more people will be charged in this case. 

Why Is It Never a Hate Crime?

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after he was severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken by Ramirez's parter hours befored he died from injuries sustained during his beating.

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after being severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken just hours before Ramirez died from injuries sustained during the beating.

Over the weekend, 25-year-old Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by a group of White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez, originally from Mexico, fell into a coma and died on Monday.

Ramirez’s fiancee Crystal Dillman told the Associated Press that Ramirez had often been insulted, including being called a “dirty Mexican.” A retired police officer who witnessed the beating said she heard one of the attackers tell a friend of Ramirez’s who was at the scene of the fight to tell her Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoa “or you’re going to be laying next to him.” And two of Ramirez’s friends who were present at the scene of the fatal beating also “said they heard the youths call Ramirez ‘stupid Mexican’ and an ethnic slur.”

Nonetheless, local police are denying that the attack was a hate crime motivated by Ramirez’s race. Despite acknowledging that there were racial tensions between Shenandoah’s White population and the recently arrived Latino population—said to number approximately 10%—Police Chief Matthew Nestor had this to say about the attack that resulted in Ramirez’s death:

“From what we understand right now, it wasn’t racially motivated. This looks like a street fight that went wrong.”

I won’t pronounce on the attackers’ guilt or innocence, or whether or not they attacked Ramirez because he was not White. That’s for the courts to determine. I will however point out that in Jena, Louisiana, six Black boys were tried as adults for second-degree murder after they ganged up on a White student in a schoolyard fight. The victim in that case was treated for injuries to his face, eyes, and ears, and released from hospital that same day. But one of his attackers was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy.

To date, no charges have been brought against the young men who beat Luis Ramirez to death but I get the feeling that his attackers will get a very different treatment at the hands of the legal system. Local police are already indicating that they will not prosecute the case as a hate crime, a sentiment supported by Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky, who said he did not think Ramirez was attacked because of his ethnicity:

I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling.”

This case has already proven that not every person who lives in this country gets equal protection under the law. The prosecution of these White teenagers will demonstrate whether everyone gets equal punishment.

In today’s globalized world, violence reverberates far beyond the locale in which it occured. For instance, an act of violence by Muslim extremists in London is met with a chorus of non-Muslim voices the world over demanding that moderate Muslims denounce the violence and reflect on why their religion is so violent. In a similar spirit, I want to appeal to moderate White people to denounce this extremist act of violence, reflect on why there is so much antipathy towards non-Whites within their communities, and begin to dialog about ways in which to stamp out these attitudes.

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Some other bloggers have been following this case and denouncing the violent attack that killed Luis Ramirez:

Standing Firm: An Online Community for Immigrant Rights
DMI Blog: Politics, Policy, and the American Dream
Citizen Orange
Daily Kos
Latino Politics Blog

Justice for LaVena Johnson.

Private LaVena Johnson was killed in Iraq just eight weeks after she arrived. The Army ruled her death a suicide but evidence of physical trauma to her body led her family to call for further investigations of rape and murder.

Private LaVena Johnson was killed in Iraq just eight weeks after she arrived. The Army ruled her death a suicide but evidence of physical trauma to her body led her family to call for further investigations of rape and murder.

In high school, LaVena Johnson was an honor student, a violinist, and a volunteer in her community. After graduating, she decided to put off college and enlist in the army, where she was assigned to be the weapons supply manager of the 129th Corps Support Battalion and deployed to Iraq. On July 19, 2005, just eight weeks after her arrival in Iraq, Private LaVena Johnson was killed. She was eight days away from her 20th birthday.

The Army initially told LaVena’s parents that she had “died of self-inflicted, non-combat injuries.” In other words, her death was accidental. However, after further investigation, the Army decided her death was a suicide. But her parents were not convinced. First off, her company commander described her as happy and emotionally and physically healthy. A phone conversation with LaVena the day before she was killed had given her mother, Linda Johnson, no inkling that she was unhappy, let alone suicidal. LaVena’s father, Dr. John Johnson, was even more troubled by the evidence of physical trauma to his daughter’s body, which he got from Army records and autopsy reports. LaVena’s face was battered; her nose was broken; she had two loose teeth; her lip was so badly cut it had to be sewn back together; her vagina had been burned with lye; and there was evidence that somebody had attempted to set her body on fire. None of this physical trauma was mentioned in the autopsy report.

LaVena’s parents cited other problems with the official version of their daughter’s death. For example, the bullet wound that was ruled as the cause of her death was on the left side of her head, even though LaVena was right-handed. The Army also reported that the wound was caused by a shot from her M-16 rifle, but her parents say it’s unlikely that Lavena, who was 5’1″ tall, could have shot herself with a 40-inch rifle. And, based on gunpowder residue tests conducted by a military laboratory, it is doubtful if LaVena even handled the weapon. Finally, according to photos obtained by Dr. Johnson of the crime scene, there was a trail of blood leading away from the contractor’s tent in which LaVena’s body was discovered, and there was a cot or stretcher between her body and the M-16 rifle that reportedly caused her death.

The Johnsons believe their daughter was raped and then murdered in an attempt to cover up the rape. Whoever broke LaVena’s nose, busted her lip, shot her in the head, poured lye into her vagina, and tried to set her body on fire is still on the loose. The Johnsons have been trying to reopen the investigation into their daughter’s death and, after some initial obstacles, there’s finally some movement in their case. They’ve received help from veterans, journalists, and even a former diplomat. KMOV, a local Missouri TV station was the first major media outlet to cover the story. Since then, the Johnsons have also spoken to and received support from some Congressional representatives.

What makes this already horrible case even worse is that LaVena’s story does not appear to be a unique or isolated incident. Moue Magazine quotes a New Zealand Herald article stating that women soldiers in Iraq are often the victims of sexual violence, and Anne Wright—who’s also supporting the Johnson family—reports that “one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military.”

The Battle for Hearts and Minds Rages on.

Reuters reports that US soldiers shot and killed the 17-year-old son of Hamad al-Qaisi, the governor of Northern Iraq’s Salahuddin Province. The killing took place during a raid on a family home, where the governor’s son was staying. One other relative of the governor’s was also killed and three people were wounded.

A US military statement says that an al-Qaeda financier was wounded and captured during the raid. The statement also explained the killing of the governor’s son thus:

As they entered the target building, coalition forces encountered two armed men. Perceiving hostile intent … they shot and killed the men. It was subsequently determined that the two … were related to the governor.”

But it seems there’s some uncertainty around the circumstances that resulted in the killings. According to the Boston Globe, Hussam—the governor’s son—was shot in the head, stomach, and shoulder while he slept. Hussam’s cousin, Uday Khalaf, was killed as he tried to enter Hussam’s room.

This is precisely the sort of thing that makes the battle for hearts and minds in Iraq an unwinnable one. The deputy governor of Salahuddin province reported at least two other attacks that followed the same pattern, accusing US soldiers of using excessive force when conducting raids. The attack was also condemned by the Salahuddin provincial council as an indication of “how the American forces disregard the souls of Iraqi citizens.”

If Iraqis get the sense that US soldiers don’t value their lives, it’s going to be pretty tough to win their hearts and minds. After all, what happens when US soldiers storm a house in search of al-Qaeda operatives? Regardless of who the soldiers are looking for, when they enter an Iraqi home, they’re going to encounter Iraqis. Whether or not they’re armed or affiliated with al-Qaeda doesn’t change the fact that they have friends, neighbors, and relatives who are not going to be happy when they are captured, wounded, or killed. And the killing of any Iraqi has the potential to alienate and radicalize countless others, whose deaths will only anger and radicalize even more Iraqis. It’s worse than a vicious cycle: It’s more like an avalance that picks up greater mass and momentum as it moves down the mountain!

In the short term, brute force might carry the day in Iraq. In the long run, though, it’s a losing game unless the intent is to kill everyone in Iraq. The other option, of course, is to withdraw US troops and put an end to this war.

Happy Birthday, Nelson!!

What’s wrong with me today? I almost forgot that it’s Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday today!!!

Congratulations to you, Nelson Mandela, who have accomplished more in your life than most of us can ever dream of!!! You are truly an inspiration!!! If only more leaders can be like you . . ..

On a related note, congratulations on finally being removed from the US government’s terrorist watch list.

It’s a fitting present from our government.

Cocaine Aircraft Abandoned at Sierra Leone’s National Airport: Deja-Vu all Over Again?

Reuters reports that an aircraft carrying 700 kilos of cocaine was abandoned on the runway of Freetown’s Lungi Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning. The pilots reportedly fled after abandoning the airplane. Sierra Leonean authorities also found several assault rifles and ammunition on board the abandoned aircraft.

This is not the first time Sierra Leone has emerged as a destination for drugs. A year ago, I wrote a blog post after reading a Miami Herald story about the siezuere in Venezuela of a Sierra Leone–bound airplane carrying 2.5 tons of cocaine. Due to the increased policing of traditional drug routes into Europe, it seems West Africa is increasingly being used by international drug cartels as a conduit for their Europe-bound product. Makes sense to me. Lax border controls, spotty security at air- and seaports, and corrupt officials are vital ingredients for the international drug trade and and all are abundant in West Africa, including Sierra Leone. Major drug seizures have been carried out in Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as well. Yahoo News reports that the aircraft was marked with a fake Red Cross emblem.

Voice of America just reported that several people—among them the chief of airport police, the airport manager, and the control tower operator—have been arrested and are being questioned. Yahoo News also counts “three Colombians, two Mexicans, a Venezuelan national and a US citizen” among those arrested.

Apparently, President Koroma took the weapons found at the scene back to Freetown in his presidential vehicle. I can’t help but wonder, though, who gets to keep the cocaine.

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UPDATE: Agence France Presse reports that 58 people, including many foreign nationals, have been detained in this case. Police investigations are ongoing.