Justice Department Joins Investigation into Beating Death of Luis Ramirez

Derrick Donchak (top), Brandon Piekarsky (middle), and Colin Walsh (bottom), 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 (top), Brandon Piekarsky (middle), and Colin Walsh (bottom), have been charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez died two days later from head injuries sustained during the attack.

The Associated Press reports that the federal government—through the US Department of Justice—“has opened an investigation into the fatal beating of [Luis Ramirez,] a Mexican immigrant in [Shenandoah,] a small northeastern Pennsylvania town.”

The case has been assigned to FBI agents in Allentown and the criminal section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the department and the FBI confirmed Wednesday. Justice Department spokeswoman Jamie Hais would not say what prompted their involvement.

I wonder if the fact that the case is being investiged by the criminal section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division means that they think it’s a hate crime? Only time will tell.

Speaking of which, it is pretty telling that some White Shenandoah residents—like the police chief and the burrough manager—are denying that the killing of Luis Ramirez has anything to do with race.

Here’s Police Chief Matthew Nestor’s take on the killing:

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

And here’s what Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky had to say:

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.”

Unsurprisingly, the defense attorneys expressed similar views. Roger Laguna, who’s defending Colin Walsh said he did not think it was a hate crime, despite the racial slurs uttered by Luis Ramirez’s attackers as they beat him to death. And Frederick Fanelli, Brandon Piekarsky’s lawyer, echoed Police Chief Matthew Nestor’s sentiments, saying he is “surprised and disappointed” that his client faces a homicide charge, attributing Ramirez’s death to a “street fight that ended tragically.”

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.

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.

Odd, isn’t it, that a defense attorney and a police chief share the same opinion on a crime? Although my legal expertise is limited to a few episodes of Law & Order and CSI, I know that it’s rare for police and defense attorneys to agree on much. So either the episodes I watched were wildly unrealistic or there’s something funny going on here. Either way, I’m sure it’s good news for the boys who killed Luis Ramirez that their defense attorneys and the police chief are on the same page.

But not all White Shenandoans justify the killing or defend the killers. CNN reports that there are a number of mixed-race couples in Shenandoah, many of which have produced biracial children. Luis Ramirez himself had two children with a White woman and was also raising her daughter from a previous relationship.

Nonetheless, the Latino reaction to the killing has been somewhat less optimistic, judging from the response of lawyer John Amaya of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which held a vigil Tuesday in Ramirez’s memory.

It legitimizes our concerns, that Shenandoah — while it might be a small, little town in Pennsylvania — the significance (of the slaying) really rises to the national stage.”

“When we hear it spewed every night on CNN or radio talk shows, real people hear it and they take matters into their own hands. These children, they turn into monsters.” 

This case, like others, has left me wondering how it is that something that is not a hate crime to some people is percieved as nothing less than a hate crime by others? In cases like this, I find it’s better to look at it from the standpoint of the victim, not the perpetrator. In this case, we have not only racial intimidation but also a long history of White racial violence—against Native Americans, Black people, Mexicans, Jews and other immigrants—that sets the backdrop for the Luis Ramirez killing.

Regardless, I hope the feds can shine some light on this case. More importantly, I hope the DOJ has assigned some Black and Latino agents to this case.


5 thoughts on “Justice Department Joins Investigation into Beating Death of Luis Ramirez

  1. Now that the local jury of all whites have acquitted the killers, the newspapers are making a big deal about the Justice Department being asked to investigate the matter as a hate crime. But we know, as you blogged all those months ago, that DOJ was asked to investigate the killing as a hate crime last summer!

    wtf is taking them so long?


  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


  3. This is so sad. I do not believe this was just a street fight gone wrong. Why were they fighting? Ramirez was a twenty-five year old father who was holding down two jobs. It makes no sense that he would get into a fight with a gang of six drunk white high school students–a fight that left him in convulsions, foaming at the mouth. It was obviously a hate crime.

    Mexican immigrants have been forced off of their land because of NAFTA. To survive, they have to become economic refugees and risk their lives by crossing the border, and by living and working in places where it is dangerous for them. Mexicans are routinely called “aliens” by supposedly liberal stations like CNN. They’re human beings, not aliens. Can you believe that anyone has to say that in 2008?

    Meahwhile, you have increasing unemployment among Americans and the sense that everything is slipping away. This fear is exploited by a racist corporate media that encourages Americans to scapegoat Mexican immigrants for the devastating consequences of corporate globalization.

    If the media did its job, they would actually report on the impact of NAFTA and other so-called free trade agreements. They would inform us about policies that give corporations tax breaks to relocate offshore to take advantage of workers in countries that lack the power to institute labor and environmental laws. They would question why there is never any money for education or investments in infrastructure– even when levees are breaking and bridges are falling down–but always money for corporate subsidies and wars.

    They would report on the movement to change these polciies. They wouldn’t make people feel powerless, and like their vote and voice don’t matter or count.

    Instead they want people ignorant and angry and jealous and divided and fighting over scraps.


  4. My condolences to the family he left behind. I am from Iramuco, Gto where he was burried. I saw his coffin pass through my house and I took some pictures without knowing who he was or what had happen to him. I hope we find justice in all this.


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