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.”
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.